Until 2008, Matthew Schnittman served as President of Denver-based LMS provider, eCollege. During his tenure with eCollege, he helped build the company into one of the most successful companies in the educational technology market. Matthew is now President and CEO of TopSchool Inc. a “Student Lifecycle Management” software and services company.

KCH: Matthew, can you begin by providing a quick overview of TopSchool?

TopSchool offers a simple, on-demand Student Lifecycle Management (or SLM) system that empowers student-centric institutions to drive growth, reduce costs, and meet accountability requirements. We believe that your process should drive our system – not the other way around.

Our team has extensive experience in higher education and Software as a Service (SaaS) technologies, and, we designed our system based on logical fundamentals – including flexible and extensible .NET and XML architecture, a cost effective web delivery method, and a response-driven service model. TopSchool’s System offers a  long-term strategy for student lifecycle management  from recruiting to retention, where forward-thinking institutions can embrace new growth opportunities. We are invested in our clients’ success – because as they grow, we’ll grow with them.

Our system goes beyond “old school” SIS with a student portal, a Prospect Management (CRM) component, and an intelligent reporting suite. The TopSchool system is a comprehensive student lifecycle management system that integrates easily with other relevant applications. TopSchool’s system offers the flexibility and power to generate student lifecycle success. Business users are empowered with the ability to create a better experience for their students.

The bottom line: TopSchool SLM helps you work smarter for less cost.

KCH: That’s obviously a competitive market, occupied by a number of very large organizations – Datatel, Campus Management and others. Which segment of the market do you focus on?

Keith, TopSchool’s tagline is powering the student-centric institution – which means we focus on those schools that treat their student as clients – and are constantly striving to provide better access to education and essentially a better quality product that helps the student find increased opportunities upon completion.

With that as our focus, the colleges and universities that are attracted to TopSchool are those that focus on nontraditional learners.  These colleges are less concerned with faculty research – and very competitively trying to attract and retain students.  The TopSchool solution provides the flexibility they need to dynamically adapt their programs to the changing needs of their target markets, for example, we offer standard term and non-term functionality.  Plus, since we allow our clients to create their own reports – they can get all the data they need to identify the next programs they will offer and the students that will be most successful in those programs.

Finally, our initial focus has been on colleges and universities that have less than 5,000 students, – there are about 3,600 institutions in the US.  We will be expanding our focus to include schools up to 10,000 students and our numbers will continue to grow.  We look at companies such as Salesforce.com that have built their business with small to mid-size companies and then continued to work with larger and larger companies as a good model.

KCH: Do your products typically replace your client’s in-house solutions?

Right from the start it has been a mix of replacing homegrown student information systems as well as replacing commercial systems.  The commonality is that the colleges and universities are focused on growth, improving retention or compliance.  These institutions were looking for a more flexible solution than the older, legacy systems and were attracted to the flexibility that TopSchool provides.  Because of our open architecture, these schools can configure our system to meet their needs today and tomorrow.  Plus, we have open APIs that allow them to integrate best of breed solutions for things such as financial aid, elearning, and so on.  And, we will open an application exchange so that clients can build their own components, integrate them on their own with the TopSchool system and begin to share/sell those applications to others in the TopSchool community.  This is a big change from the monolithic SIS solutions that are closed and make it difficult to integrate with other systems.

KCH: Colleges are obviously under increasing pressure to do “more with less”. How has the current economic climate influenced college’s interest in investing new technology solutions?

Definitely, colleges are looking to reduce costs in all areas- and are considering outsourcing across their enterprise. In the technology world – this has led to tremendous excitement around Software as a Service (SaaS).  Since TopSchool is the only pure SaaS provider in the student information system space (others host their software on behalf of their clients, but none were architected for SaaS), this has been a tremendous opportunity for us.  As CIOs evaluate their current expenses, such as software maintenance, software upgrades, hardware and additional staff required to keep their current system running; the SaaS model starts to look pretty good. Then when they find out we offer significantly quicker and less expensive implementations – well, that’s why there is so much excitement in the marketplace about TopSchool and why we are signing clients in a space that has been stagnant for some time.

Our integrated model simply offers a better solution – with a total cost of ownership up to 50 percent less than traditional software solutions.

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