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Forrester Study Shows How Connected Campuses Lead in ROI

By October 1, 2020

The arched entrance into the Trinity College,

The results are in. Digitally connected campuses deliver winning results — and drive your ROI.

A new Total Economic Impact™ study by Forrester Consulting shows that higher education institutions using Education Cloud are driving 195% in ROI over three years, with a 7-month payback period. They’re also seeing significant increases in enrollment, revenue, cost savings, retention, and better student experiences.

In the most financially challenging time in the history of higher education, results like these matter now more than ever. Finance and IT executives at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. are laser focused on aligning their business models and KPIs with their technology investments. They want a nimbler and faster IT environment, one where they use a unified digital platform to increase agility and speed.

Forrester’s in-depth analysis takes an objective look at the cost savings and benefits of technology used by four diverse U.S. institutions ranging from 1,500 to 90,000 students. The findings are based on best practice benchmarks, and interviews with senior executives.

“We had the largest summer enrollment in the history of the university. We wouldn’t have had that level of engagement and promotion of summer programs without Salesforce. I don’t think our peers are saying the same thing.” –CIO, public research university

Male student sitting on a staircase in front of a university, taking notes in his note book and studying, while wearing a mask.

Institutions using Education Cloud are driving 195% in ROI over three years, with a 7-month payback period.

Agility in the New Normal

Crucially, COVID-19 has made the need for agility all the more acute in what has been described as the new normal. The study describes how Salesforce helps improve institutions’ agility by adapting, aligning, and accelerating toward the right priorities. Interviewed by the Forrester team, a CMO at a public research university described how they quickly responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by launching, a suite of Salesforce tools, which enabled them to reopen, and develop long-term wellness and safety protocols.

Institutions were also empowered to adapt their student journeys in the aftermath of COVID-19. The CIO of a public research university said: “During the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve been able to engage with our students in a different way. As 90,000 students returned for the fall, there was a lot of information that we needed to convey to them. Having the tools and the data to build out those journeys has been pretty impactful for us.”

An Undisputed Single Source of Truth

Salesforce by the Numbers

Education Cloud has become the single source of truth for institutions’ planning and progress. Having a central hub of information has created an institution-wide “golden record” of each student. Like consumer-oriented businesses in retail or financial services, higher education institutions recognize the importance of having one constitution record. It reduces marketing costs, improves targeting, and creates efficiency when sharing constituent data across the institution.

“Salesforce allows us to take all of these disparate data sources across the university and bring them together into one location. So, we can remove duplicity and come up with really good, accurate golden records,” said the CMO of a public research university.

Four Institutional Benefits

In addition to providing agility and a single source of truth, the Forrester study quantified four specific benefits from using Education Cloud.

1. Improved Recruitment, Admissions, and Enrollment:

Institutions using Education Cloud increased enrollment 11% over three years, which boosted bottom-line revenue by 12%. Interviewees say that personalized and measurable enrollment enabled communications at the right time and place.

The CIO at a private liberal arts college said: “Good tools, good leadership, and hard work equals success. For the first year in quite some time, we dramatically exceeded enrollment goals. And right now, we’re set to enroll the largest class in the 84-year history of the college.”

2. Improved Student Experience and Retention:

With Education Cloud, institutions increased their retention rate by 6.8%. They also noted that they were able to reduce silos and centralize information, which enabled more frequent and effective communication with constituents.

The technology innovation officer at a private research university said: “Students often thought of the university experience as a treasure hunt, where you’re lucky if you stumble onto something. It was all word of mouth. Now students can go to a central place and find things easily. That improves the equity of availability of programs, resources, and services to everyone.”

3. Operational Excellence and Productivity Savings:

Interviewees told Forrester how they were able to break down work and focus on process improvement — ironing out inconsistencies or errors that were slowing things down — to create consistent workflows for the first time. This drove a 12% increase in productivity among administrative and academic teams.

When interviewed, the CMO at the public research university said that templates ensured consistent execution and business continuity, and back-end automation and centralized processes consolidated labor. “Most of the tactics that come out of an enrollment or retention meeting are communication, marketing, and engagement-related. I don’t think that the admissions professionals could come out of those meetings and be able to execute those ideas without Salesforce,” the CMO said.

4. Legacy Environment Savings:

Typical of higher education technology stacks, the interviewed institutions had a sprawl of point solutions across the departments and colleges. One outcome of investing in Education Cloud was the ability to consolidate and decommission several of these tools, driving hard savings in the form of avoided licensing costs and soft savings by reassigning headcount away from maintaining the old solutions. With Education Cloud, Forrester’s composite institution saved a total of $2.4 million on legacy tools.

The CIO at a liberal arts college said: “In admissions, we spend approximately $70,000 each year on the third-party license, and [with Education Cloud] that will go to zero.”

Unlock the Power to Connect, Deliver, and Win

In today’s uncertain times, higher education institutions need to know that they’re working with the most strategically valuable technology that will drive both institution and student success. Forrester’s Total Economic Impact™ study makes a compelling case for the unparalleled benefits of Education Cloud, and how successful education institutions use Salesforce to thrive amid change—and win.

To learn more, you can read the full Total Economic Impact™ of Education Cloud study and register for the webinar on October 14 to hear from the Forrester author who wrote the study.

About the Author

Razan Roberts, senior director for strategic engagement and communications at

Razan Roberts, senior director for strategic engagement and communications at, has been a leader in education technology for the past 18 years. She engages with higher education executives to help solve their challenges with technology. Prior to joining Salesforce six years ago, Razan led educator and academic programs at Microsoft.