Benefits of Electronic Signature Technology for Higher Education

Digital transformation is a top priority for many colleges and universities. Among other prevalent trends that institutions now face, falling student enrollment, declining revenue sources and unpredictable government funding have put a spotlight on digitization.

After shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, higher education officials had to adapt while remaining dedicated to their core missions and improving student experiences to help them grow as leaders. Their vision should embrace change and take advantage of the current environment to prepare for long-term success.

The most successful schools prioritize efficiency by utilizing innovative digital strategies, like digital agreements in enrollment and gift management, to meet the needs of current and future students.

Challenges and opportunities in higher education today 

The existing higher education business model has come up against new and existing challenges over the last decade. Here are the top challenges institutions, regardless of size and reputation, are facing: 

  • Increased competition: Universities and colleges are managing the ever-increasing competition as enrollment declines and online learning options increase. The options available to today's students range from free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and micro-credentials to sophisticated online graduate programs. Additionally, learners can gain employment through corporate certification programs within a few months. 
  • Unpredictable, risk-laden gifts and grants: A decrease in federal and state funding may force universities to increase tuition and cut programs. In addition, fundraising is difficult because the pandemic has impacted market volatility, influence giving and in-person events. 
  • Former revenue sources are no longer reliable: In addition to room and board, auxiliary services associated with student and visitor activity (such as athletics and events) are declining. In the past, these areas could be used as alternative revenue streams for institutions, but these options are no longer a certainty.

Why higher education should automate their agreements 

In higher education, agreements are integral to most processes across departments and involve all stakeholders, such as students, staff, faculty and donors. 

You may have noticed that many institutions are investing in tools like CRM (customer relationship management), workflow management and ticketing. Meanwhile, many agreement processes remain old-fashioned, paper-based and manual. In the higher education sector, inefficient processes cause slowdowns and hinder progress. 

One way to effectively confront the challenges that higher education institutions face today and in the future is with electronic signature technology and a digital system of agreement. A system of agreement like the Docusign Agreement Cloud for Higher Education enables efficiencies and speed that support schools’ strategic efforts to gain financial independence, bridge revenue gaps and thrive in a new world of higher education.

Improve enrollment by simplifying financial aid and admissions processes

The enrollment process has never been more important, but prospective students evaluate schools differently. The problem of maintaining enrollment is exacerbated by the fact that students are transferring schools in growing numbers. Tech-savvy schools use analytics and technology to attract and retain students.

Here’s how using electronic signatures and digitizing the agreement process can help attract and retain applicants:

  • Personalization: Digital agreements provide students with a more customized and personalized experience. As a result, you can meet all of a student's expectations throughout the admissions and financial aid processes. 
  • Student experience: Appearing tech-savvy to students makes a significant impression on students. For example, 87% of students consider whether a school has the latest technology before enrolling.  
  • Speed: By streamlining your processes and systems, you will accelerate admissions and increase enrollment. According to the data, 66% of students accepted an offer while waiting to hear from another institution and 82% of these students would choose differently if their first schools had offered them earlier.

Effectively manage gifts and grants management

Meetings and events that require in-person attendance are probably taking the biggest hit. Docusign research shows that 27% of advancement teams expect to suffer a shortfall in fundraising in 2021 because of canceled or remote meetings.

It's not all bad - some teams are pivoting and succeeding. As part of their strategy, they plan to increase investments in building major gift pipelines, launch more "giving day" events that raise funds for specific causes and use online fundraising methods like crowdfunding. 

Here’s how electronic signatures and digital agreements are helping advancement departments to pivot: 

  • Improving the donor experience: By adopting technology to simplify and personalize digital submission, schools can improve the way donors give through the technology they want to use.  
  • Minimizing pledge management risks: Automate and standardize agreements to prevent costly mistakes, such as sending repeated or incorrect requests. Moreover, institutions can automatically flag conditional gifts that might restrict the use of funds by the institution. 
  • Enhance efficiency for overburdened employees: Automate manual tasks and complex workflows to streamline the gift agreement process and decrease staff time. As teams evolve, automation also helps maintain overall business continuity.  
  • Accelerate agreement processing time: Enhance the ability of advancement teams to identify and resolve approval and review bottlenecks with greater agreement visibility and reporting.

Learn more about Docusign for Higher Education.