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Student Information Systems

Columbia SIS Replacement Project Gains Pickup

Columbia University is working with a higher education technology company to co-develop a replacement for its student information system. Under the arrangement, Columbia will be working with Unifyed to produce what has been branded as Unifyed SIS and already made available — in part — to other institutions.

The university will be licensing the student information system to Unifyed exclusively. The company said it plans to release the software by module. Those will include modular functionality for course management, degree audit, student records, the course catalog, registration and student accounts.

"We have an aging SIS and were in the market to replace it with a solution that is dynamic, flexible and student-first," explained Columbia CIO Gaspare LoDuca, in a statement. "After assessing what was out there, we decided to build our own. We identified that Unifyed shared a common vision and technology approach and realized that if we joined development efforts, we could achieve our goals faster."

Columbia has dedicated about 90 technical people to the project and is leading the product management, engineering and quality assurance of the new modules. Unifyed has added an additional 28 full-timers to accelerate product development.

The first module, Course & Curriculum Management, has already been released. This module does course inventory, catalog, scheduling and proposal management. The second module, Degree Audit, has been moved to production status. The anticipated release date for the final module is March 2022. The software is architected to enable universities to implement new SIS modules while still running their legacy SIS.

Unifyed was founded in 2010 when Columbia entered a long-term technology transfer agreement through its own Columbia Technology Ventures, to license and make its higher education software available to other schools. All of the solutions are cloud-based.

The existing flagship product is Unifyed Student, which was built by Columbia's information technology team with support from Unifyed. That includes software for recruiting and admissions (Admit); student onboarding and engagement (Engage); student success and advising (Retain); alumni engagement (Advance); identify and access management (Verify); application integration (Integrate); and reporting (Report). Unifyed also offers applications for attendance tracking (Attend); student safety (Protect); and an artificial intelligence personal assistant (Yoda). Two enterprise resource planning applications, which run on SAP and Microsoft software, cover human resources and payroll, as well as finance.

According to information on the Unifyed website, the technology has been adopted by more than 750 colleges and universities in seven countries. Among them: Western Illinois University and the University of the Holy Cross. Western Illinois signed a $2.8 million, 10-year contract with Unifyed last year for its ERP system, including the SIS.

One distinguishing aspect of Unifyed's selling approach is the open pricing structure the company follows. Schools can plug in data about enrollment on a web page and see what a given module will cost. For example, Engage is $4,500 per year for small colleges up to 1,000 students; $15,000 per year for schools with between 2,501 and 5,000 students; and $35,000 per year for institutions with between 10,001 and 20,000 students. Some modules are free through a "special grant price." Those include Retain, Advance, Collaborate, Integrate and Report.

Pricing for the new SIS starts at $175,000 per year, for up to a thousand students, which doesn't cover the cost of implementation. The price does include access to other modules that are part of the Unifyed portfolio, including Engage, Verify, Admit, Financial Aid, HR and Finance.

Company officials said that early adopter partners will get the full Unifyed/Columbia SIS — including implementation, hosting and support — at the cost of their current annual SIS/ERP maintenance fees.

"Columbia University IT's collaboration with Unifyed accelerates CUIT's SIS release timelines, gets Unifyed to centrally host, manage and maintain what CUIT builds and gives higher ed the SIS that everyone wants at a price point that makes sense," said Unifyed CEO Ranjan Tayal. "It's a win, win, win for everyone."

Institutions interested in learning more about the SIS and joining in on the initiative can reach out to Anjli Jain at [email protected].

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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