Jul 01, 2021

CRM for higher education


Customer (or constituent) relationship management (CRM) software has become an indispensable part of running any business these days. Gone are the days when an in-person visit, phone call, or email were the only way people interacted with your organization. With numerous social media platforms, messaging services, chatbots, and other touchpoints, having a centralized system for keeping track of prospects and customers is critical. Higher education institutions are not immune to this – with students applying to an average of 8-12 colleges, it is critical for schools to be able to ensure that they attract the right students and guide them through the application process and beyond.

What's inside

Why use a CRM for Higher Education?

Just like with other organizations, universities and other higher education institutions can benefit from using a CRM in numerous ways to streamline operations including.

Building relationships with prospective students

A 2019 study of almost 500 higher education leaders revealed that the biggest concern, shared by more than 60% of those surveyed, was competition between universities. This means that having a highly efficient system of identifying and staying connected with prospects is critical to an institution’s success.

A CRM system allows for universities to build a complete picture of prospects and their interests, helping schools to provide highly personalized information and services. Regardless of how prospects first interact with a school, whether it be through social media, the university website, or a traditional campus tour, having a central system for keeping track of all communications with a prospective student and keeping them informed and engaged increases the likelihood of a successful enrollment.

Nurturing students through their entire higher education experience

After the admissions and enrollment process is complete, many CRM solutions allow universities to manage the entire student experience in one place. As well as centralizing all communications and student data, good CRM software can also be used to manage events throughout the student journey, from open houses for prospects, through to alumni dinners.

Streamlining operations

A huge benefit to using a CRM system in higher education is the ability to move to paperless operations. The National Center for Education Statistics estimated that in Fall 2020, approximately 19.7 million students were expected to be attending universities in the US. This represents an enormous amount of student data to be generated and managed by institutions. In the past, institutions would be inundated with thousands of pages of paper in the application process alone, so the ability to move all of this into a streamlined CRM system is a big advantage.

It can also help significantly when dealing with unexpected changes, such as the move to remote working and learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. After moving almost all of their processes to paperless, The University of Utah was able to move their entire alumni donations office to remote working within 24 hours – a move that would have been impossible in that timeframe using traditional processes.

Alumni and donors

Alumni donations are an important part of higher education institution budgets, so having an efficient way of tracking students after graduation and following them on their career journeys is vital in keeping them connected with their alma mater. A good CRM will allow universities to have all of the information in one place to help personalize fundraising events and donation requests to alumni and achieve the best gifting outcomes.

Trying to implement CRM for your organization?

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What are some of the best CRM systems for universities and higher education institutions?

Depending on the needs and budget, there are numerous CRM software options available that are made specifically for or are well suited to higher education institutions, including the five listed below. The first three are enterprise CRMs that have been proven to work well in higher education, and the second two were specifically developed for academic institutions.

CRM for Higher Education


Salesforce has long been a giant in the CRM world, and when it comes to higher education, they have always been a great option. This option was further improved in 2018 with the introduction of Salesforce Education Cloud which further enhances the existing platform capabilities and creates a unified CRM solution for universities to manage the entire student life-cycle, from prospect through to alumni donations.

Depending on the existing software utilized by your organization and the experience level of your in-house team, partnering with an experienced Salesforce consultants may be the quickest and cost-effective way to get up and running on Salesforce and get the most from its extensive capabilities.

Microsoft Dynamics 365

In late 2016 Microsoft merged its long-standing CRM software, Microsoft Dynamics CRM into its Microsoft Dynamics 365 suite of products. Like Salesforce, Dynamics 365 aims to be an all-in-one CRM solution for universities, offering tools for all aspects of the student journey, as well as the ability to handle administrative duties.


Hubspot is well established as an all-in-one online marketing solution and has a highly regarded free version of its CRM software. While the free version has quite generous limits, larger institutions would be better served using their premium versions that can be bundled with their full suite of marketing, sales, support and operational automation software. When it comes to use for higher education institutions, Hubspot is mostly geared towards the process of converting prospective students into applicants. Hubspot does have numerous software integrations available to build on its functionality, so depending on the existing tech stack in use by your institution, it may be a good fit.

Foundation CRM by Full Fabric

Foundation CRM is the first of the CRMs in this roundup to be built specifically for the needs of higher education. It integrates fully with Full Fabric’s other software products to manage all aspects of a student’s experience at their chosen institution. With some CRMs, event management is handled through third-party integrations, but it is built into Foundation, along with lead management and the tools to qualify prospective students.

Slate by Technolutions

Like Full Fabric, Slate is an all-in-one CRM solution created for the needs of higher education institutions. Technolutions claims to have never raised the price of their Slate software, and claims that most institutions fall into the $50K per year pricing range and recoup that cost within the first year.

Not sure which CRM is right for you?

A number of factors go into the answer, which is why it's best to talk through each option with an expert. Our consultants have coached countless clients on this, and we'd be happy to help you.


With increased competition between schools for student enrollments and the expectation of a highly personalized experience among a new generation of always-connected students, it’s more important than ever for higher education institutions to embrace technologies such as CRM systems. With the ability to streamline operations and build better relationships with students throughout their education journey and beyond, the right CRM can prove to be one of the best investments your institution can make.

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