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Ransomware Primer How to Protect Your School

Ransomware attacks continue to grow at a rapid pace, and they’re expected to double in 2018. They’ve even spread to school districts and are the reason why the PARC exams in the New Jersey district were delayed in 2015 (for random ransom demands upwards of $124,000). Moreover, K-12 schools are often targets and private PK-12 schools with small budgets or IT teams can be at risk. That’s why it’s important to understand the basics of ransomware, and how it spreads and infects. You can prevent ransomware from happening in the first place by implementing some best practices. Here’s what you need to know.

The Basics and How It’s Dispersed

Ransomware is malicious software that is often spread via pop-ups on mobile browsers and email. When individuals access this content, it leaves them vulnerable to an attack that can lock their data, deny access to it and even destroy the data. It can spread quickly by exploiting domain vulnerabilities, too. Cybercriminals that hack the system often follow up with a ransom demand in order to release this information, and academic institutions are often a target.

Ransomware Best Practices

While ransomware attacks are on the rise, it doesn’t mean that you’re left defenseless. You can take the necessary steps to ensure your school and staff are protected by using some key best practices:

Change passwords frequently. Keeping the same password will keep you and your staff susceptible to hacks. Avoid this by implementing a procedure that requires staff to change their passwords on a frequent basis, such as every 90 days. By doing this, you can reduce the potential of a ransomware attack.

Test your network. Keeping one step ahead (or more) of ransomware attackers is vital to reducing the incidence of an attack. You can accomplish this by consistently checking for vulnerabilities in your school’s network.

Examine incoming email. Links within emails are an easy way for hackers to access your information without your knowledge. All it takes is one click on the wrong link to fall prey to a potential hacker. That’s why it’s important to examine your incoming email for suspicious or unfamiliar requests from people you don’t know, or even from those you know that may request something off-hand. Rather than clicking on the link, you can open up emails at home or at work via school portals that are encrypted. Also, watch out for phishing schemes that ask for your information, such as your bank account number or your school ID number.

Keep a backup of all pertinent information. Often, hackers that demand ransom block access or even delete the vital content you need to get school work done. Backing up all vital content is an essential step to avoid the risk of losing access to the data you need to get school tasks completed or to prevent hackers from getting the upper-hand.

Use anti-virus software. Start off with the right tools from the first day of school operations. Ensure that all school computers and mobile devices that have access to your network are equipped with software that can easily spot viruses, malware and suspicious activity that attempt to exploit your system.

Have a plan. Even with taking the necessary precautions to prevent a ransomware attack, schools can fall prey to savvy hackers. In the event this happens, it’s key to have a plan in place so that your staff can be aware of the right actions to take should anything go wrong.

Final Thoughts

Ransomware is prevalent and is projected to continue to grow. However, by taking the essential steps to safeguard your data, you can get your work done for school and be confident your information is safe.

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How to Succeed at Annual Fundraising

Technology continues to impact every aspect of our world, including fundraising campaigns. While traditional offline outreach to prospective donors is still effective, the success of online tools in generating contributions to K-12 schools shouldn’t be ignored. Online tools offer an opportunity to enhance the fundraising efforts that help the school meet its goals for the future.

Keys to a Successful Fundraising Campaign

Once the fundraising objective and how it fits with the school’s mission have been established, it’s essential to understand the donors that the campaign relies on for support. That’s why prospect screening and management should be an ongoing part of your school’s annual fundraising plan.

Keeping communication lines open is a significant factor in increasing donor engagement, and that engagement is a key indicator of the ultimate success of the fundraising effort. In fact, subject matter experts suggest that nurturing relationships with donors is the foundation of a successful, robust fundraising program.

Online Trends in Donor Behavior

Online giving is a growing trend for K-12 education organizations and donors don’t seem to be reticent about the amount they send using online platforms. While gifts in the $1,000 range are most typical, gifts of $5,000 and more are also donated online to the nonprofit sector.

Online donations from a mobile device have also been steadily increasing, with nonprofit recipients observing that a notable percentage of online donations are mobile transactions. Donor behavior evidently mirrors consumer behavior, suggesting that your campaign strategy should include mobile-friendly emails, websites and donation forms.

Donor Engagement

Combining online and offline campaigns also improve donor engagement, along with the prospect that donors will donate more than once. Research shows that organizations tend to retain almost twice the number of multichannel first-time donors, compared to offline-only donors and online-only donors.

Millennials are also coming on stream as their incomes increase and they have children. Their interest in the social good of the community is ready to be harnessed through the technology they embrace.

How to Succeed at Annual Fundraising


My Backpack Alumni Community

With the My Backpack Alumni Community web portal, your K-12 school has an online tool that invites donor engagement and facilitates its prospect screening and data management. My Backpack lets alumni update their profiles, add and review class notes, make gifts, pledges, and payments online, and track their giving history. It also allows staff to broadcast emails to targeted groups of alumni.

The My BackPack Alumni Community integrates fully with Alumni/Development and General Ledger, providing a complete data set for the school’s fundraising campaigns, as well as the capacity to process gifts and payments.

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New Add-on Features in Ascendance

Defining a significant company milestone in an unparalleled twenty-five-year journey, Senior Systems significantly extends the reach of its solutions and introduces many innovations that give all Senior Systems users new levels of effectiveness.

Our primary focus at Senior Systems is helping our clients succeed using our all-in-one administrative solution. Several areas we are continually improving is our parent experience in My BackPack and administrative processes in Ascendance. Here are our the latest add-on features in our Ascendance product line.

My BackPack AutoPay

The AutoPay feature is a recurring payment that parents can set up and control in My BackPack. Once they enroll, AutoPay automatically transfers funds from their bank account, debit card or credit card according to the schedule they set up. This new feature will help schools reduce delinquent payments and provide more reliable cash flow, while also providing a convenient way for parents to manage their online payments.

All-in-one Tuition Management

We are excited to be the first K-12 software provider to fuse the best features of both in-house and outsourced tuition management services. In Ascendance 93_3, we are offering an integrated tuition management service to streamline all aspects of the tuition process built into the Senior Systems platform. This means schools and families have one portal to use to manage payments and student records. Schools will get instant access to online deposits and real-time reporting across the platform.

SMS Broadcast Messaging

My BackPack SMS broadcast messaging is a quick and easy method for schools to send relevant messages to families on their mobile devices. This powerful form of communication is a must because 98% of a school’s population has access to mobile devices, and it’s also a preferred communication method by younger parents. You can setup queries in Ascendance to easily target specific student groups, parents, and staff. Create templates for quick messaging and personalize them with merge fields. SMS is consumed faster than any other kind of mass communication, with higher open rates compared to e-mail. This add-on feature will surely enhance our clients’ communication strategy.

Contact Sales for More Information

These add-on features in Ascendance are available now! Contact a Senior Systems Sales Consultant for more information at 1-888-480-0102, or send an e-mail to

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3 Must Haves for 100% Health Form Compliance

The beauty of zero tolerance, as it relates to compliance, is that it’s entirely enforceable, and deals more with enforcing action by the parents before the start of school, than student behavior on a daily basis during the school year. In essence, a zero tolerance health form compliance policy mandates that all required health information be submitted prior to the start of school, and in the event that anything is missing, the student is denied entry to school, athletics, or any school-related trip. That’s right, a true zero tolerance approach demands 100% compliance!

We work with many schools who are hesitant to take a firm stance with parents, but here’s the reality – the health information schools require on their students can be critical, life-saving information. Allergies, medications, chronic health conditions, emergency contacts – all of this information is needed when a student health crisis arises.

This is all well and good, in theory. But how does it shake out in real life? How do you implement a stringent zero tolerance policy? In our experience, it comes down to three big steps.

1. Get top-down administration buy-in.

If zero tolerance is to be a reality, the policy must have the support of the entire administration team. Once you have administrative buy-in, get the whole school on the same page. This should be much easier with the support of the administrators. If they make it clear to the rest of the school that compliance is essential and are unwavering in that goal, the rest of the school will follow suit. Once the entire school is on the same page, a united front must be evident to parents and students. If there is any wiggle room at all, parents and students will find it and take advantage of it. In order for zero tolerance to work, the united front must be absolute and absolutely clear.

2. Prepare a strategy for implementation.

You should take into account necessary behavioral changes to enforce compliance. As already established, the first behavioral change is to agree across the board that zero tolerance is the only way. So when a parent calls the day before school or shows up the day school starts without the necessary paperwork, you cannot waiver – the student must be turned away until the required information is on file.

Rolling zero tolerance out to parents will require a pre-planned, deliberate schedule. We’re confident that every single school we work with can roll out a zero tolerance policy and enforce it – in the first year. However, some schools are somewhat hesitant to be so forceful with parents, especially when enrollment numbers are always at the forefront. But, when it comes to enforcing compliance, that shouldn’t be a factor because zero tolerance is about the child’s well-being. A parent is extremely unlikely to decide not to enroll their child at your school because you have a policy in place to ensure their child’s health and safety.

3. Execute.

Put your strategy in action. Leading up to the start of school, you’ll be in contact with parents who have not completed the required information, so you’ll continually remind them of the repercussions if they do not take proper action. Be prepared for parents who will not have submitted their child’s information yet. Even though you’ve been in touch with them throughout the summer, they may still seem surprised if you deny their child entry to school because they’ve not submitted the proper paperwork.

To combat last minute issues, have computers or kiosks available, if possible, so parents can complete the required information on site. If this approach, or another last ditch effort (physicians faxing information on the day of, or last minute trips to the doctor), don’t resolve the issue, then you should deny the student entry to the school, classes, and sports. We’ve seen in practice, if this strong stance is taken, the parents absolutely will get you the information needed.

There are no exceptions to a true zero tolerance policy.

We’ve built several zero tolerance tools for school use, including these 3 Keys to Obtaining Health Form Compliance. Check these out for a brief look into Zero Tolerance, or skip right to the good stuff and download Magnus Health’s Zero Tolerance Policy Toolkit. This toolkit will walk you through all the reasoning behind the policy, as well as parent communications and schedules to implement and enforce it. With these tools in hand, I think you’ll find that a zero tolerance policy really can be your friend.

Senior Systems would like to thank Magnus Health for their collaboration and partnership.

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Go Green with Paperless Admissions

A Paperless Admissions Process

Blake and his family like what they read about your school online as compared to the other schools they are considering. They love the school colors, the mission statement, sense of school spirit and how easy the website is to use. Mom thinks “This school seems to understand the need to teach students about technology.”

Relieved to have found a solid potential school choice, they excitedly find a tour date and time that fits their schedule and fill out the simple online registration form. Clicking ‘submit’ makes them almost ‘feel’ like a student when they immediately receive a school branded message welcoming them by name and stating that the Admissions Director is looking forward to meeting them.

The Admissions office added Blake to this year’s list of incoming students. The admissions office is now able to electronically track the geographic spread, ages and feeder schools of interested potential students.

Admissions subsequently sends messages to Blake’s family about the school and activities they may attend to become more familiar with the school such as sporting events, plays, STEM events, etc.

Blake and his family feel very welcome when they arrive for the tour. A unique name tag and a welcome packet with his name on it are ready for him when they arrive.

At home that night, they complete the online admissions application branded with the school’s mascot while remembering all of the good things they saw and heard at the school. Blake’s mom makes their initial payment using the secure online payment system.

Upon pressing submit, they receive a warm welcome note addressed to Blake. They discover another email personally addressed to Blake from the Dean.

Go Green with Paperless Admissions

Full Integration Is Key

Accounting opened a record for Blake indicating his initial payment was made, and his account is paid to date. They know his family will not be seeking financial aid because it was a question on the online application that automatically populated the financial aid field in the single database.

Next year’s marketing campaign has begun. Admissions will be able to print a list of feeder schools and know at what age potential students begin the search for their next school. This school year will be spent meeting with teachers to develop age-appropriate activities/demonstrations to interest the demographics of potential students.

Blake and his family excitedly begin shopping for school supplies from the list they printed for his grade from the website.

Go Green with Senior Systems Software

Senior Systems solution electronically transforms how schools operate eliminating the cost of paper, copying, envelopes and postage.

Free your school from the hassle of paper files and redundant labor-intensive messaging with Senior Systems database platform. All of the features above can be added and customized for your school in one comprehensive package. Contact Senior Systems at 1-888-480-0102, x2 or email to discuss what we can do for your unique situation.


With Senior Systems, you only need to enter information once and access it everywhere. Eliminate the complications that come from trying to synchronize multiple copies of data across applications. Easily, seamlessly and securely manage the student lifecycle from prospect to alumni with our single database solution.

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Grading Transparency Boosts Student Engagement

Many teachers spend hours arguing with students and parents about final grades every term. Grading discrepancies happen when a student, expecting a high score, gets surprised by a sudden drop. With no more time to correct the issue with extra credit or in-class assignments, they often consider arguing to be their only path left. When students can’t see their progress and performance throughout the year, they may not realize how low their grade has fallen. Even when students realize they are at-risk, they rarely share the information with parents. If the grade drop happened after mid-terms, parents might not find out about a failing grade until the final report card hits the mail. However, one straightforward and elegant solution to grade shock is improved transparency.

What Is Grading Transparency?

For a lot of parents, the focus on transparency comes from a desire for a more fair system. Parents want to make sure their child is being graded along the same lines as every other student. With grading policies that include intangibles like classroom participation, though, it can be difficult to ensure that every grade is “fair.” From an administrative standpoint, transparency gives each grade added validity. Teachers can point to cumulative cause and effect for each resulting grade. Added transparency doesn’t have to remove the subjectivity of grading, but it should communicate grade changes more quickly and clearly.

How Does Grade Transparency Work?

How Does Grade Transparency Work?

In a system where parents and students have near-instant access to grades, they can see test results, scores on essay assignments and areas where a student is under performing. There is no need to wait for mid-terms to address a problem or deal with grade shock at the end of the year. Instead, parents can instantly identify problem areas and work with teachers to create a plan for bringing grades back up.

Many independent schools already have online grading in place. At the beginning of the year, instructors upload a list of everything that students are expected to turn in during the term. That list might include major projects, tests, quizzes, homework assignments, classwork and anything else that can affect a final grade. Some schools include attendance as part of the final score. With everything clearly posted, kids can see where they are on their way to a passing score or what they need to do to bring their grade up to an A. By laying things out clearly – teachers show students exactly what they need to do to earn their desired grade.

Transparency = Communication

When parents and students can see their current average grade, it gives them the motivation to communicate directly with instructors. Parents will be more diligent about getting their children to complete their homework assignments when they can see every missed assignment. Parents can also see assignments and due dates ahead of time, helping them keep students on task throughout the semester. By giving parents and students greater access to grading as it happens, you avoid the end-of-the-year rush of missed assignments. Seeing grades help improve the otherwise adversarial relationship that can often develop between parents and school administrators. Instead, all of the adults in the situation can work toward their shared goal: student achievement.

Benefits of Mobile Grading

Benefits of Mobile Grading

Giving students and parents the ability to access grading while on-the-go has direct performance-based applications in engagement and achievement. Consider the advantages for a child who misses school. A virus or flu can keep a child out of the classroom for a week or more, leaving them struggling to catch up on missed assignments. With mobile grading, kids can see assignments as they go out and complete them at home. This reduces the amount of missed work and helps avoid last-minute cramming. It also lets sick kids keep up with material so that they can be ready for testing on schedule.

Poor time management is another issue faced by many students. Some kids have trouble turning in assignments until they realize the direct consequences if they fail to do so. A student who can see, immediately, the effect of a missed grade on their total GPA is more motivated to get an assignment in. No child goes to school with the desire to fail. By giving them access to real-time grades, you give them the tools to avoid the consequences of procrastination.

Remember the Purpose of Grades

As administrators, too often the focus at the end of the year is the grade, not what the grade is intended to measure. A grade should be a measurement of retained information and learning, not an arbitrary score based on personality and hard work. Grades should be objective but are so often measured with subjective things like participation. Teachers are pressured to avoid failing students, while parents are always looking for a higher grade for their children. Transparency addresses several issues:

– Minimizes subjective grading policies.
– Ensures early notification of failing grades.
– Opens up direct lines of communication between parents and educators.
– Helps reduce grade inflation.

When parents, students, teachers and administrators all see the information as it becomes available, it becomes easier to address problems. There are fewer delays in scheduling needed conferences, and students are more likely to reach out to teachers when they’re available through messaging or email. By using a grading app and making the results available to everyone involved in the process, you achieve transparency and improve student outcomes.


With Senior Systems, you only need to enter information once and access it everywhere. Eliminate the complications that come from trying to synchronize multiple copies of data across applications. Easily, seamlessly and securely manage the student lifecycle from prospect to alumni with our single database solution.

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Five Ways All-In-One Software Will Benefit Your School

One of the most important factors in effectively running an independent K-12 school is the information system or systems that are used by the school. Although these systems help the school’s administration and staff maintain critical information for functions like admissions, academics, accounting, advancement, and more, learning to use and maintain these systems, while necessary, can be a time-consuming process. At Senior Systems, we make this process easier with strict implementation procedures.

When each department uses a different software program, these information systems become more complicated and costly, resulting in lost time and even lost information. Various programs for accounts, admissions and academic records cause faculty and staff be trained on new systems or switch away from the old ones. Software that combines these necessary information systems into one program not only saves time on software training and makes records easier to access, it also allows for better collaboration between departments, improved control of information and better integration of related information databases.

1. Simplified Access to Information

A single program that manages all vital student information systems makes it easier for a school’s administration and staff to quickly access the information they need. Multiple have to be updated and maintained separately, and their users will spend valuable time logging in and out of and switching between the various programs used by the school instead of doing actual work. With a student information system that integrates all of those functions, these records can be accessed with a single sign-on – making it much faster and more efficient to use and maintain student information.

Better Collaboration Between Departments

2. Better Collaboration Between Departments

A single, integrated system for student information will also have an impact on collaboration and sharing of information between departments. When records and databases are split between programs, groups of users within the school may access different information sets – and even use them in different ways. Compartmentalizing information not only makes these records more complicated to access, but can also result in missed communication, and even lost information between administration and teachers or other staff. An information system that provides records for admissions, academics, accounting and alumni relations in one interface makes it much easier to communicate necessary information across the levels of school staff and ensures that information is neither lost between programs nor miscommunicated.

3. Time Saved on Software Training

For any organization, one of the most time-consuming tasks related to human resources is training new hires in the use of software programs and processes. Schools are no exception to this, and extensive software training can take up valuable time better spent on other tasks that more directly or indirectly benefit student learning. The more programs that are used to store student information, the longer this training process will take; the difficulty in learning multiple programs is further compounded when these programs have contradictory processes and interfaces. Storing, accessing and maintaining all student information with a single program significantly simplifies the training required for school administration and staff. In addition, an integrated system means a much lower learning curve for new hires and eliminates the chance of user errors that would be caused by differences between programs.

Improved Control of Data Integrity and Security

4. Improved Control of Data Integrity and Security

Maintaining the accuracy, integrity and security of student information are key concerns for the use of any program that organizes these details – student information systems must be able to be trusted and to be protected. The higher the number of software systems a school or an organization uses, the more difficult it becomes to keep the information within these systems accurate as well as secure. Replacing multiple systems with one system makes it exponentially easier to ensure that student information is protected from potential hackers and other security threats. It also makes it simpler to maintain the accuracy and integrity of the information system, since all information is contained in one program.

5. Better Integration of Related Records

Databases of information are meant to be connected and used in concert to make the best decisions regarding the educational needs of individual students and a school as a whole. Putting the right details together to make it more useful in making decisions and developing policies is much more complicated when the relevant information exists in separate locations. Student information systems with all of the information contained in one place make it much easier to make connections between the right information sets to see patterns and make well-informed decisions, as well as changes to policy when needed.

A student information system that combines different data sets and records into one program can make a school more efficient and effective. An integrated approach to record management allows administration and staff to more easily access vital information and to better collaborate with each other to share information and provide for students’ learning needs. It also saves time in training, as school staff only need to be trained on one system instead of several. Finally, an all-in-one student information system for admissions, academics, accounting and alumni relations allows for improving data control and security, as well as better integration of related information sets – making it a more practical choice than using multiple programs.


With Senior Systems, you only need to enter information once and access it everywhere. Eliminate the complications that come from trying to synchronize multiple copies of data across applications. Easily, seamlessly and securely manage the student lifecycle from prospect to alumni with our single database solution.

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Questions To Ask Alumni to Maximize Donations

What Motivates Alumni to Donate?

Getting alumni to donate involves holding meaningful events to bring them together and listening to their feedback about alumni experiences. At these fundraising events ask these alumni the following questions:

1. What are common themes of your experience at the school?
2. What events did you enjoy when you were a student?
3. What areas of the school do you think could be improved?
4. What keeps you in contact now?

Tapping the Past, for the Future

After you’ve gotten some answers, hold an informal gathering built on shared interests and motivations regarding the school. For example, if the school has a strong basketball team, consider a pre-game mixer with a follow-up trip to the game, with alumni sitting together. For those who cannot attend, create a web page with updates via social media. Have some fundraiser scouts at the game and online, to ask whether alumni would consider donating. Mention which concerns need attention, such as the gym, the uniforms, and the equipment.

Build on Alumni Pride

Some areas of a school aren’t as colorful and social as sports, music, and drama. The way to get alumni to give to programs that involve art, writing and science is to highlight what students are doing, what they need now, and tie that to the past. Here are a few ideas:

Assign an art project that involves drawing different parts of the school and special moments on campus. Showcase student work in a real and virtual gallery with a fundraising event. There, alumni can donate money and purchase student work to benefit the school. Ask for feedback from donors about what spurred them to give.

Assign a student project of writing a letter to an alumnus. The letter should center on a student’s happy memory at the school. Allow alumni to donate a small sum to receive a real or digital message and reply to their student.

Have students write a funny explanation of their science project. Create an interactive digital gallery of the student science fair with digital tags that alumni can click on to read about student projects. Have teachers explain what supplies the classes need to continue this work. Allow alumni to donate to specific funds, such as science supplies.

These scenarios, and others like them, present “feel good” opportunities to create a buzz around the school and attract media attention. They make students and alumni aware of one another’s existence and reveal the potential for the future. After you’ve held a few of these fundraisers, ask for responses from students, parents, administrators and alumni about additional ideas for similar events. It’s almost sure you will have unleashed everyone’s creativity!


With Senior Systems, you only need to enter information once and access it everywhere. Eliminate the complications that come from trying to synchronize multiple copies of data across applications. Easily, seamlessly and securely manage the student lifecycle from prospect to alumni with our single database solution.

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We’re Joining Forces for Independent Schools

Senior Systems, a leading provider of software to K-12 private schools, is excited to announce we are formally joining forces with Diamond Mind and TADS to expand our proven, integrated suite of best-of-breed solutions and superior customer service. With Diamond Mind and TADS, we are joining the new division, Education Brands, under MB Parent Holdings, LLC based in Knoxville, TN which has an extensive track record of integrating leading brands, accelerating product development and valuing excellence in customer service. Mike Barros, former CEO of Diamond Mind, leads the new division and Mike Gustin, 19 years with Senior Systems and Director of Client Success, will be the new General Manager of Senior Systems.

The proven suite will power K-12 private schools with solutions for admissions & enrollment, financial aid, tuition management, school & student/constituent management, and campus-wide digital payment options – all working in concert to empower schools to achieve educational, operational, and financial success.

Due to their close partnership over the last decade, the Education Brands’ companies delight 3,000+ schools and 500,000+ families today. Combined, the businesses have exclusively served K-12 private schools for 90+ years consistently earning client satisfaction survey ratings over 96% year after year. In total, the partners securely, conveniently and transparently handle $3+ billion in digital payments for our schools annually.

“Senior Systems is excited for the opportunity to join forces with Diamond Mind and TADS to deliver private schools a proven, integrated suite of best-of-breed solutions and world-class customer service. Senior Systems pioneered offering a comprehensive enterprise-style platform through storing all the data in a single, central database for a fully-integrated solution. Together, we will deliver a superior experience to students, parents and school staff – while continuing our commitment to unmatched customer service,” adds Mike Gustin, General Manager, Senior Systems.

“As a combined force, the complementary strengths, including an extensive, vibrant partner ecosystem, make us the premier provider of cloud-based software and payment solutions to K-12 private schools – from tuition management and school & student management software to solutions for online giving, admissions, enrollment, summer programs, alumni management, purchase cards, and more,” said Mike Barros, President, Education Brands. “In contrast to other platforms, we offer schools choice, flexibility, control and customer service excellence as we continue to look for ways to augment our proven, integrated suite of best-of-breed solutions.”

For existing Senior Systems schools, your Customer Service contact will remain the same with no change to who you call for assistance. For additional details, please reference the following:

1. See Frequently Asked Questions.
2. Contact us directly at for any general questions or call 1-888-480-0102.

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How All-in-One Data Systems Encourage Student Loyalty

Private schools pride themselves on the strength of their communities. That community extends beyond the classroom to alumni, who provide essential financial and promotional support to develop the school’s reputation and build its resources. In an environment where there is increased pressure on schools to excel in its programs and students’ career advancement, alumni connections are an essential tool.

A school’s relationship with its alumni has progressed as technology has made communication easier and more personal. Innovative administrators have worked to enhance these relationships with personalized messaging and targeted donor marketing campaigns. As alumni are asked to do more than give money – on-campus participation is now often expected–schools have to work harder to impress former students and emphasize their importance to the institution. Administrators who have combined software solutions that keep information about students in one place have an easier job when it comes to reaching out to their former graduates.

Schools Rely on Alumni Contributions

In the absence of public funds, private schools rely on tuition fees and alumni contributions to fund their programs. Significant costs, such as the capital expenditures of new buildings and replacement of aging equipment, are often funded by donations. Scholarships and financial aid support students who meet the rigorous academic requirements of a private K-12 school but do not have the wealth to pay full tuition. Schools want top students; alumni donations provide the means for them to create an environment that encourages enrollment.

Alumni provide services that significantly enhance a school’s reputation. Their willingness to promote the school on social media, at industry events or upon return to campus for events is a testimonial to the institution’s quality. In particular, when alumni go on to have success in post-secondary education and in their industry, the school adds to its list of distinguished graduates. This makes the school more attractive to future generations of students.

Former students may have a more active role to play. They may directly assist in student recruitment by identifying star K-12 students at another institution or in the public system, who could benefit from transferring to the school. Alumni act as valued mentors to current students, providing advice and direction concerning future educational opportunities and promising careers. Schools, therefore, receive a significant return on the time and money they invest on alumni relations, as institutions and students alike have an enhanced experience as a direct result of alumni involvement.

How All-in-One Data Systems Encourage Student Loyalty

How Integrated Information on Alumni Improves Relationships

Comprehensive student systems allow schools to keep all information they have on an individual in one place. In a segregated system, the student’s admissions, grades and coursework, financial records, and extracurricular and club activities are separate from one another. Integrated systems permit administrators, or those with relevant information access and authority, to create a snapshot of a student’s entire history with the school.

This snapshot is of great value to an institution that wants to improve its alumni relations. Administrators can identify basic information, including years of attendance and destination upon graduation. They can also see who came in as a scholarship student and who was a legacy candidate–the latest in a line of attendees from one family. Specific interests, such as clubs, sports, and competitions, such as science fairs or debate teams, might also be in this database.

Schools can use this specific information to improve alumni relations. Previous scholarship winners might be invited back to speak at an event honoring new recipients of the same award. Donation campaigns might be specifically targeted, so alumni can contribute to an event or activity in which they participated. Previous debate team members might give money to new advocates. Science fair competitors might support budding scientists showing off their innovations.

Alumni know that their schools want their money, but institutions have to take that extra step to demonstrate that they are remembered and valued. In addition, targeted campaigns make alumni feel more connected to the school’s cause. It is often easier to raise funds from former students who know firsthand the value of the program, cause or piece of equipment the school is trying to support.

Database for a Comprehensive Student History

Transitioning to a comprehensive student system has many benefits. Staff members with a need to access several types of student information–course history, athletics, admissions, financials–can do so using one database. Privacy controls can also be implemented to protect students from breaches.

Since integrated systems require only one entry, in many cases, for each student, there is less room for error concerning biographical and contact information. With less paper and data entry, staff can save time and focus on more important tasks. Most importantly, it takes mere moments to create a snapshot of each treasured student. When those students become alumni, they will have a lifelong relationship with the school. As the school shows it has a vested interest in each student’s success, those students will reward that loyalty with its money, time, knowledge and mentorship.