Is Your Higher Ed CRM Compliant? What Every Enrollment Head Should Know

Is your higher ed CRM putting you at legal risk? Find out if your CRM can help you attract new students without violating the latest regulations.

The difference between a CRM that allows you to confidently enroll thousands more students each year and a CRM that costs you thousands of dollars in regulatory fines lies in one simple word:


A compliant higher ed CRM will help you recruit and enroll hundreds of new students month after month, while ensuring that every interaction between your staff, students, and applicants stays well within the current regulatory requirements.

But unfortunately, not at all CRMs care about compliance.

So, how do you know which CRM will bring you more students, and which one will put you at risk?

In this article, we’ll review the major compliance requirements for education organizations and show you exactly which CRM features you need to help your recruiters and staff stay compliant no matter what.

Table Of Contents

  • Why A Compliant CRM Is So Important In Higher Education

  • Compliant CRM Check #1: Federal and Provider-Based Marketing Regulations

  • Compliant CRM Check #2: Misrepresentation Policies

  • Compliant CRM Check #3: Verification Policy

  • Compliant CRM Check #4: Student Discrimination Regulations

  • Compliant CRM Check #5: Student Data Privacy

  • Compliant CRM Check #6: GDPR and International Student Admissions Compliance

  • Will Your CRM Be Compliant Tomorrow?

Why A Compliant CRM Is So Important In Higher Education

There are at least 281 education-related regulations in the US alone.

As if that weren’t enough, there are numerous other telemarketing rules and guidelines that regulate how recruiters contact potential students via phone, email and SMS.

Higher education universities that recruit students need to follow them all.

Here are just a few of the repercussions you could face due to non-compliance:

  • Hefty Fines. Do Not Call Registry violations and robocalls can amount to $10,000 fines per call, with some companies being sued for millions.

  • Government Funding Withdrawal. Student privacy data violations can result in withdrawal of government funding.

  • Fewer students enrolled. Higher ed organizations become so overwhelmed and confused about compliance regs, it paralyzes their recruitment process and enrollment suffers.

That last item is perhaps the biggest drawback. With so many regulations in place, universities and privately held higher ed organizations are understandably anxious about their recruitment processes—but they don’t have to be.

A robust, reliable and compliant CRM can take a lot of the weight off your shoulders so that you and your entire admissions staff can safely, effectively and confidently recruit more students for your school.

How exactly? Let’s take a closer look at the major regulations universities and colleges need to comply with throughout the student recruitment and admissions process, and how the right CRM system can help you stay legit, no matter how big your enrollment goals are.

Compliant CRM Check #1: Federal and Provider-Based Marketing Regulations

Some higher ed CRM vendors heavily market themselves by promising unlimited texting, emailing, robocalls, and omni-channel dialing. And while the promise of ‘unlimited’ anything always sounds great in theory, a total disregard of compliance practices can quickly put your entire organization at risk.

As soon as your recruiters pick up their phones and start calling prospective students, this activity falls under the purview of at least two different federal commissions: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Add to that regulations for SMS and email marketing, and you’ll soon find yourself in a complex world of telemarketing compliance rules where one seemingly minor misdeed can cost thousands or even millions of dollars in penalties.

If your school is a non-profit organization, you are likely exempt from most telemarketing regulations. But for many proprietary colleges and privately held higher eds, you’ll need to pay close attention to make sure your CRM is compliant with FCC and FTC regulations.

Here’s what to keep in mind in order to keep your enrollment marketing compliant:

  • Pre-recorded promotional calls (a.k.a. robocalls) arebannedunless you have a prior written consent from a receiving party

  • Promotional SMS texts require prior written consent in cases where you have had no previous interactions with a potential applicant

  • TheDo Not Call registryapplies to for-profit entities, but doesn’t apply to non-profit universities

  • The FCC has established strict timelines for all marketing-related calls and texts between 8 am and 9 pm

  • Telecom providers have their ownguidelinesrecruiters need to follow. If you do not follow these guidelines, providers can flag phone numbers and web domains and block all outbound text messages and emails.

Important: if a contact has already reached out to your organization and you use email, text, and phone calls to nurture that existing relationship, that does not qualify as a telemarketing activity and therefore is not subject to penalties. 

It can often feel impossible to navigate the complex web of telemarketing regulations, especially considering that every regulatory entity rarely coordinates their efforts with others. Fortunately, a smart, compliant CRM can do most of the hard work for you.

How Shape CRM Helps Keep Enrollment Marketing Compliant

At Shape, we always aim to keep pace with the latest FCC, FTC and provider based compliance regulations to ensure that all your university’s prospecting and lead nurturing efforts stay compliant.

Here’s how we build compliance into the Shape CRM for higher ed:

  • Compliance-proof functionality: Shape automatically notifies you if certain hidden limits imposed by providers have been reached. For example, Shape automatically cuts off texting functionality for any number that sends more than 95 messages in a day so that the number won’t be flagged as a fraud by your network provider.

  • Automated routing rules: Using our advanced lead prioritization system, Shape makes sure your recruiters only call students and applicants at the most appropriate time. It takes into account time zones, applicant interaction history, as well as 26 other factors to ensure your recruiters have the highest rate of success.

  • Pre-built templates: With optimized templates and scripts for texts, emails, and phone calls, you can be sure your recruiters stay compliant during every interaction with new or potential applicants and students.

Try Shape today!

Compliant CRM Check #2: Misrepresentation Policies

According to the final program integrity regulations, every university is held responsible in cases where it provided deceptive or misleading information to applicants and students—and the fines may add up to millions of dollars.

This applies equally to educational programs, marketing campaigns, advertising, and recruiting efforts. That is just part of the reason it’s so crucial for universities to have all their marketing campaigns and recruiting communications in one trackable place.

How Shape Helps Universities Avoid Misrepresentation

The right CRM system will serve as a central hub for all communications between recruiters and prospects across your marketing, recruitment and enrollment channels.

With the right CRM in place, higher education recruiters can:

  • Track and analyze every interaction with applicants from one place. Recruiters can easily see every interaction with applicants from start to finish, instantly tracking down any issues that may arise during the recruitment process.

  • Ensure the same high-quality standard across all channels of communication. With pre-customized templates and call scripts, recruiters can ensure their communication is compliant across all channels and departments.

  • Monitor lead sources. Education recruiters know exactly which marketing campaign or advertisement attracted a student or applicant and can further review and clarify any statements that were made prior to making contact.

Compliant CRM Check #3: Verification Policy

Running background checks on applicants isn’t something you do for the fun of it. The fact is, you’re required to by law.

For example, when an institution has doubts about the origin or validity of an applicant’s high school diploma, the 2011 Higher Education Act requires the university to have an established evaluation procedure in place to verify the applicant’s credentials.

Although necessary, this brings an additional layer of complexity to the recruitment process, making it a longer, more admin-heavy process—and one with much more room for error.

The good news is, a well-optimized CRM can help simplify this process, making it easy to track the status of every applicant and accelerate the verification process to keep your enrollment pipeline moving.

How Shape Streamlines The Verification Process

Shape features a comprehensive Status feature to help higher eds track every step of the student’s admission process. Statuses can be created and customized to the needs of every particular university, so you can see at a glance which applicants need your attention.

A CRM with smart Status automations has at least two main advantages:

  1. Easily track the status of every applicant. All admissions professionals and recruiters can track and manage the status of every student and applicant in a single system, reducing the amount of duplicate operations and accelerating the overall pipeline.

  2. Trigger automatic eventsbased on status changes. For example, as soon as an applicant receives a status ‘Pending verification’, they receive an email requesting additional details, or a recruiter receives notification to contact the applicant.

Compliant CRM Check #4: Student Discrimination Regulations

There are several regulations and laws that protect students from discrimination based on age, gender, race, and disability. And for good reason.

With the growing number of high-profile discrimination lawsuits, universities and higher ed organizations must ensure they never discriminate against students across any communication channel throughout their entire learning lifecycle from admission to graduation.

Problem is, discrimination often happens unknowingly.

How Shape Can Help Prevent Student Discrimination

Using Shape’s pre-built customizable templates for both email and text, educational organizations can ensure their staff workers are always using compliant, appropriate language at every step of an applicant’s enrollment journey.

Here are two ways to help ensure your enrollment communication is anti-discriminatory:

  1. Establish communication guidelines for staff workers. The way your staff communicates is crucial. There is a big difference between the questions: “How old are you?” and “Are you at least 18 years of age?”

  2. Easily adapt to regulatory changes. Ethics and discrimination guidelines are constantly being updated. With compliant templates in one place, you can instantly update email, text, and phone communications across departments without having to pause your enrollment efforts.

Compliant CRM Check #5: Student Data Privacy

Student data privacy concerns are growing every year.

Currently, there are two federal laws that govern student data protection: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).

Both laws place firm restraints around the educational data or sensitive student information that a university or higher ed organization can share without the student’s explicit consent.

Despite these regulations, a growing amount of data breaches in the education sector is forcing universities to take a hard look at their security policies and the software they use. This is where the security of your CRM becomes a critical issue.

How Shape Helps Protect Student Data

Every CRM vendor claims security is a top priority but at Shape, we take our security efforts to the next level.

Our infrastructure involves four distinct tiers of security:

  • Physical Security: Guarded data centers located in some of the most secure facilities at undisclosed locations

  • Network Security: Our provider network is gated and screened by highly powerful and certified Intrusion Detection / Intrusion Prevention Systems

  • Staff Processes: Shape includes complete access control with regular security audits and updates

  • Redundancy: Our security process is designed to protect your data even during system failures

Compliant CRM Check #6: GDPR and International Student Admissions Compliance

In 2018, the European Union released the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). With fines up to £500,000, universities and higher ed organizations must pay extra close attention to how they protect the personal data and privacy of every european student they recruit.

Here are just some of the items that must be on your GDPR compliancechecklist :

  • Ask for student consent when you start processing their information

  • Allow students to easily request access to their personal information

  • Automatically delete student data when your organization has no more use for it

  • Enable students and prospect to easily update their data to keep it up-to-date

  • Inform students whenever your institution updates its privacy policy

It’s a lot to keep track of, and it doesn’t help that during the enrollment process recruiters can collect hundreds, if not thousands, of prospective applicant data. Typically, this data is then dispersed across different services, software tools, and paper documents.

All that chaos makes following GDPR requirements virtually impossible. Unless, you have the right tools in place.

How Shape Helps With GDPR Compliance

Here’s how Shape helps universities stay GDPR-compliant while they actively recruit EU-based applicants:

  • Store all applicant recruitment data in one place. With a bidirectional API integration with your SIS, Shape allows recruiters and education administrators to easily add, update, or delete student data everywhere in real time.

  • Easily control who has access to student data. Managers can set up user roles and permissions to control how much student data each staff worker can access.

  • Automatically inform students about policies and updates. Set up drip campaigns and automatic triggers to instantly broadcast any changes in your data and privacy policies to your students and applicants.

  • Integrate Shape with SIS/LMS software. Easily manage and update student data across the entire campus from one centralized platform.

Will Your CRM Be Compliant Tomorrow?

Let’s go with the best case scenario and say your CRM checks all the compliance boxes. It allows you to safely attract new students, while following all the major regulations from federal bodies, telecom providers and your state education department.

The next question is:

As regulations change, will your CRM stay compliant?

New marketing technologies are emerging every day—and so are the regulations that aim to guide and control them.

At Shape, we closely monitor regulatory trends in higher education and regularly update our features, security infrastructure and support guidelines to keep our users compliant.

If you want to reach your maximum potential in attracting new students, without putting your organization at risk,try Shape for free for 14 days and see for yourself how easy it can be to keep your organization compliant.

With Shape, there are no hidden fees. Attract more students and stay compliant with the only CRM designed specifically for higher ed organizations with big ambitions. Read more about how Shape comes out on top among the best CRMs for higher education.

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The information in this article should not be used as a legal advice. Always contact your legal representative for detailed information on relevant regulations.