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Top 4 Trends Impacting Higher Ed Business Officers in 2024

1/16/2024 8:00 PM

As a leader in higher ed technology, we scan the horizon to identify trends that will significantly impact the business of higher education and the technology that supports it. While never an exhaustive list of the issues facing universities and colleges, the top trends of 2024 are topics that warrant close attention from your campus and your solutions providers.

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TREND 1: Mobile technology continues its rise to dominance

The move to mobile keeps on growing as many of the regular tasks and activities of our daily lives are now completed through mobile devices. Scheduling appointments, making payments, unlocking doors, accessing public transportation, and more are done via apps on a phone rather than a paper check, a key, or a plastic ID card. And students overwhelmingly say mobile is the way.

On a college campus, mobile technology performs tasks with speed, accuracy, security, and convenience that improve the student experience, while streamlining processes and generating useful data that improves productivity and efficiency for administrators. Implementing mobile technology also meets the expectations of today’s students—the mobile generation—who want their on-campus experience to mirror their off-campus habits.

Digital payments via a mobile device can improve campus security, compliance, and operational efficiency when managed by an advanced, comprehensive payment solution. Setting up declining balance accounts, a form of digital payment, also provides benefits to administrators while enhancing the student experience.

The last key to the mobile campus experience is the move to mobile student IDs. When used as a campus ID, the creative uses of mobile technology on campus are endless, with the technology delivering benefits to the entire campus.

TREND 2: Many regulatory changes in many areas

While there are changes to federal, state, industry, and institutional regulations and policies every year, it looks as though 2024 may present more regulatory and policy changes than typical. Higher education institutions should prepare for a heavier lift in their normal efforts to maintain compliance while continuing to fulfill their mission.

Change is coming from many directions, including but not limited to the following topics that have domino effects on the business and technology of higher ed:

This is not a comprehensive list of all regulations impacting all institutions, and administrators should perform due diligence to determine which specific regulations could impact your campus.

To identify and assess regulatory changes, and how they apply to your institution, consult on-campus experts for their advice and support, from your legal counsel to the IT department. Consult off-campus experts, too, including higher education industry organizations, technology user groups, and specialized vendors with niche expertise. Coordinate with stakeholders across campus to coordinate changes and implementations needed to be in compliance.

TREND 3: Addressing staff turnover and reduction

The National Association of College and University Business Officers identified supporting and maintaining the workforce as one of higher education's top five business issues in 2022. A year later, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that staff retention problems are persisting, with the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources 2023 Employee Retention Survey finding that from 2020 to 2023 turnover increased by 81% for exempt staff and increased by 61% for non-exempt staff. Losing staff, especially veteran employees who possess significant institutional knowledge, impacts the ability to provide services, maintain processes, and fulfill the mission of an institution.

Many institutions are addressing staffing issues by harnessing the power of technology to automate and integrate processes to complete large volumes of tasks quickly and accurately. Because software is a force multiplier it magnifies the power of staff, empowering an individual with the ability to do the work of multiple staff.

Along with the technical features of software that help you do more with less, outsourcing select activities to a trusted third-party provider can also protect your team from burnout amidst staffing issues. Even if you don’t outsource tasks, your technology provider can be a resource to help you maximize the efficiencies possible with your existing tools.

The newest force multiplier is generative artificial intelligence (AI), which increases productivity and efficiency by handling tasks for staff. So far, top uses of generative AI are customer service and fraud detection, two issues of concern for higher ed administrators in student services and the business office. McKinsey’s report on the economic potential of generative AI estimates that the technology already handles about half of customer service contacts and could perform another quarter, resulting in 30-45% gains in productivity.

TREND 4: Understanding your data and how to use it

A year ago, we stated that a trend for 2023 is the increasing use of data to improve campus operations. For 2024, this surging momentum will continue as institutions’ data cultures mature. Administrators across the industry recognize data as critical to sustaining relevance and revenue. They are hard at work to gather and analyze data to generate insights that help refine processes and policies, improve the student experience, save time and effort for staff, and potentially increase revenue while decreasing costs for the institution.

Data is created by the various activities occurring across campus that are facilitated by technology: opening doors, class and event attendance, campus transportation usage, purchases, and more. This data can be used for a wide range of purposes, from assessing space utilization in campus buildings to piecing together the life of students to better understand and serve their needs.

When it comes to collecting, analyzing, and putting data to use, there is not a one size fits all model. Each institution will approach data differently due to its size, infrastructure, type of institution, and other key factors. Take time to consult best practices in higher education data analytics for business offices and best practices with data for ID card offices. Then discuss with your committee of campus stakeholders to develop goals, strategies, and tactics to enhance your institution through data-informed decisions.

Advancing mission through advanced solutions

This year’s trends present challenges and opportunities to simplify the business of higher education and transform services. Whether doing more with less or turning data from dollars and doors into campus improvements, working with the right solution providers makes a difference. The best technology helps your institution provide excellent services that contribute to a positive student experience. It can also help save time and costs while aiding with security and compliance.

As a leader in higher ed payments and ID management, we not only simplify the business of higher education but stay up to date on trends and innovations outside higher education that will soon, if not already, impact your campus. Visit our parent company, Global Payments, to download their 2024 Commerce and Payment Trends Report and learn more about what’s next in commerce and payments this year.