Activity heats up in student information system market

Colleges and universities replace outdated and homegrown systems

A potentially positive higher ed economic indicator is that more institutions purchased student information systems in 2013 than had done so in any year since 2008, according to a recent market analysis by The Tambellini Group.

Two of the main reasons given for the 195 purchases were the need to update outdated software and to replace homegrown systems.

“Institutions have come to terms with the realities of their budget situations, and now they’re looking to solve administrative systems issues that they put off in 2011 and 2012,” says Vicki Tambellini, the company’s president and co-author of the report. The average SIS purchase cycle is 10 years.

SIS selections are noted in the report by size of institution and vendor. Institutions can use the data to get a feel for vendor choices made by schools in their peer group, says co-author Mary Beth Cahill, the firm’s vice president for research.

Oracle dominated in 2013, with 40 percent of the purchases. Its surge in the SIS space was driven by three large institutions—Harvard, Penn State and the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges.

Penn State’s new SIS will replace an outdated, homegrown system from the mid-80s.

Cloud and mobile capabilities were priorities for the new system, which will cover 21 campuses with nearly 100,000 students, says Michael BÁ¼sges, the university’s enterprise project director.

“It was most cost effective and least risky for the university to go with a tested, third-party vended system.” Adaptability and scalability were important factors because of the growth of mobile apps, he adds.

Another major trend is a growing demand for the subscription-based software-as-a-service model. Vendors host SaaS systems in the cloud, and handle maintenance, software updates and security, Cahill says.

“That’s going to be a really attractive alternative to a lot of institutions, especially some of the larger institutions that are paying a lot of money for large systems and customizations that they’ve made.” To purchase the report, visit

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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