As a two-year community college with an annual enrollment of nearly 10,000 students, Texarkana College strives to keep tuition costs low in order to keep students happy. The school does this by taking a more granular look at IT spending across the board. When Texarkana needed to upgrade its ERP system, the institution prioritized cost efficiency and selected a solution that ended up saving millions of dollars.
“Converting to Jenzabar led to one of our biggest spending cuts over the last few years,” said Michael Dumdei, Vice President of IT at Texarkana College. “The college realized an annual reduction in costs approaching $1 million.”
Texarkana College offers a low-tuition, high-quality education with an emphasis on student completion and success. It has the highest three-year, full-time student graduation rate of all 50 community colleges in Texas.
Despite its student success rates, the school was facing financial challenges due to the rising costs associated with its ERP platform prior to making the upgrade. That’s because the cost of an ERP goes far beyond the price tag of the software—it also incorporates the costs of hiring, managing, and training the specialized IT staff needed to run the platform.
“Our previous ERP was an expensive, hosted system that required significant IT resources to manage and maintain,” Dumdei said. “And the user interface was difficult to master, making it hard for departmental users to learn the system.”
As part of the evaluation process, Texarkana College’s personnel visited several campuses to help them determine if the school should move to a new system, upgrade its existing platform, or bring all of its ERP services in house. Interestingly, many of the campuses in comparison had large IT departments with several employees dedicated to managing the ERP platform, which just wasn’t an option for Texarkana.
“It became obvious to us that we were not going to save anything if we brought the ERP in house and had to hire several more people with specialized skills to manage it. We knew it would be difficult to find qualified employees to fit our budget constraints, so the CFO and I started looking at alternatives,” said Dumdei.
The evolving ERP landscape in higher ed
The technology landscape in higher education is rapidly transforming thanks to the proliferation of digital, cloud, mobile, and data-driven technologies. ERP systems are not exempt from this evolution, especially as institutions pursue options that can help reduce cost without compromising quality or functionality. This is driving investments in more modernized ERP systems that can cater to the needs of today’s student and institution needs.
According to an outlook by Persistence Market Research, the education ERP market is expected to nearly triple in terms of revenue through 2028. The report noted that this growth will largely derive from the continued adoption of smart and innovative education solutions. Thanks to the rise of digital technologies, opportunities seem abundant for forward-looking schools.
Meanwhile, digitalization is widespread across the higher education industry, with the cloud largely leading the charge. Gartner notes that digital business optimization opportunities are encouraging higher ed institutions to shift from “classical” ERP systems, which are tightly coupled and require resources to be spent on core maintenance, to “postmodern” SaaS solutions that are more agile and enable resources to be redirected into additional functionality and value.
According to its 2019 survey, Gartner also noted that achieving financial goals are top priorities for higher education CIOs. This is especially true given the transforming IT landscape, which opens opportunities to change technology from a cost center to a revenue generator or, at the very least, cost optimizer.
Digital transformation or optimization initiatives in higher education are critical, and decision-makers clearly recognize the importance of those endeavors. More schools are modernizing IT systems to reduce cost and enable new front-end and back-end capabilities, inviting better experiences to all users across campus.
Texarkana found great success with its new cloud-based ERP. Aside from the dramatic cost savings, its ERP upgrade has enabled improvements to operational efficiency. IT staff find the new ERP solution easier to manage and more flexible than its previous system.
With the future’s inevitable and ongoing evolution of technology, it’s likely that we will continue to see these types of transformation and optimization initiatives in higher ed as IT decision-makers make more innovative investments.