10 Ways an Unsupported CMS can Hurt Higher Education Revenue

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By Chris Rapozo — Sep 28, 2023 11:00 AM

10 Ways an Unsupported CMS can Hurt Higher Education Revenue

A website is a college and university's number one recruiting tool. Institutions must prioritize their online presence to maintain relevance and credibility. Central to this is the Content Management System (CMS) they employ.

However, many institutions persist with outdated or unsupported CMSs, unaware of the ramifications. Beyond mere digital aesthetics, an outdated CMS can have profound negative impacts on higher-ed enrollment numbers.

This week's blog post explores ten consequences institutions might face when their CMS fails to evolve with technological advancements.

1) Missing Enrollment Numbers 

An outdated CMS often results in a subpar website experience, hampering a prospective student's first impression of a college or university.

Today's digital-native students expect smooth online experiences, which include not only functionality but also website personalization.

Personalized website content, tailored to individual visitor's preferences and behaviors, can significantly elevate the user experience, making potential students feel understood and valued.

It shows the institution is not only keeping up with technological advancements but also prioritizing each student's unique interests.

When visitors encounter a website that's slow, not mobile-optimized, has broken links, or is difficult to navigate, it can signal a lack of modernity or investment in student experience, resulting in doubts about the school's overall commitment to current best practices and innovation.

2) Lack of Brand Consistency

An outdated CMS can severely compromise brand consistency. Inconsistencies in branding and messaging often hurt the user experience and can even erode trust and credibility for higher-ed institutions. 

As technology and design trends evolve, an outdated CMS might struggle to support new media formats or responsive designs, leading to inconsistent presentations. 

The lack of granular user permission in old CMS versions can result in unauthorized changes, further disrupting the consistent portrayal of the brand's image and values.

3) Decreased Online Visibility

Search engines prioritize websites that adhere to modern standards, including mobile responsiveness, fast load times, secure connections, as well as the quality of content and user experience.

An outdated CMS often lacks these features, leading to suboptimal search engine optimization (SEO).

Without regular updates and compatibility with current SEO best practices, a college or university's website gradually loses its ranking on search results, leading to reduced online visibility.

Consequently, the higher-ed institution could miss out on potential enrollments, partnerships, or other opportunities arising from a strong online presence.

4) Security Risks 

“An outdated or unsupported CMS is an easier target for cyberattacks,” says Johannes Schuetze, Hannon Hill’s DevOps/Site Reliability Engineer. 

Without regular security patches and updates, vulnerabilities in the system remain unaddressed, making it easier for hackers to exploit.

Security breaches damage the institution's reputation, eroding trust among students, staff, and stakeholders. Using an outdated CMS exposes higher-ed institutions to immediate threats and risks long-term reputational and trust-related consequences.

Learn more about how Cascade’s push based CMS offers enhanced security measures in our white paper dedicated to the topic.

5) Increasing Maintenance Costs

Maintaining an outdated CMS involves patching old software, dealing with incompatibilities, and sourcing legacy expertise. 

As technology evolves, these older systems become rarer, making the expertise to handle them more costly.

Integrating newer functionalities or tools requires custom solutions, which is time-consuming and expensive.

Over time, these accumulating costs of workarounds, integrations, and mitigations will exceed the cost of simply updating or migrating to a modern CMS. 

Thus, persisting with an outdated system can become a costlier choice for colleges and universities, incurring higher maintenance expenses and potential inefficiencies.

6) Inefficient Workflows

An outdated CMS typically lacks modern systems' streamlined features and integrations, such as more cumbersome content-uploading processes, limited collaborative tools, and tedious manual updates.

Staff may grapple with disjointed processes, resulting in bottlenecks, errors, and longer times to publish or update content. 

Modern CMSs offer intuitive interfaces, automation, and integration capabilities that significantly improve workflow efficiency and reduce content go-to-market time.  

By sticking to an outdated system, higher-ed institutions may force their staff to work with tools that hinder rather than enable their tasks.

This wastes time and resources and will frustrate staff, affecting overall productivity.

7) Inadequate Mobile Experience

Mobile optimization is paramount in today's digital age. An outdated CMS that cannot offer a seamless mobile experience results in websites that are difficult to navigate on smartphones or tablets.

Elements might be misaligned, load times prolonged, or interactive features non-functional, frustrating users who increasingly access content via mobile devices.

As mobile browsing surpasses desktop, an inadequate mobile experience detracts from user engagement and harms search engine rankings. 

This translates to missed engagement opportunities for colleges or universities with potential students, alumni, and other stakeholders, who might turn to more mobile-friendly alternatives.

8) Inefficient Content Distribution

APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are crucial in streamlining content management and ensuring data consistency.

By integrating various systems, APIs eliminate the need for manual duplicate entries, reducing the risk of errors and outdated content.

This seamless interconnection ensures real-time content updates across platforms, fostering accuracy and coherence.

Unfortunately, many outdated CMSs lack support for COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere) even within their ecosystem, limiting efficient content distribution but also magnifying the chances of inconsistencies and redundancy in the information disseminated.

9) Fundraising Challenges

Fundraising often relies on seamless online platforms for campaigns, donor engagement, and payment processing. 

An outdated CMS may struggle to integrate with modern fundraising tools or provide a user-friendly donation experience. 

Potential donors, encountering obstacles or a cumbersome interface, might abandon their contributions, directly impacting fundraising efforts. 

Security concerns arising from an unsupported CMS can further deter donors, fearing their financial information might be compromised.

Hence, an outdated CMS can inadvertently place barriers between willing donors and the institution's fundraising goals.

10) Competitive Disadvantage

With the looming demographic enrollment cliff, colleges and universities compete not just on academic merits but also on their online presence and accessibility.

An outdated CMS hinders an institution's ability to present itself as modern, innovative, and technologically adept.

Prospective students, faculty, and partners often gauge a higher-ed institution's quality through its digital footprint when outdated systems can’t support the highly personalized visitor experiences expected from today’s audiences.

If competitors offer an elegant, user-friendly website with updated content, while another college or university lags with an outdated site, it may lose appeal.  

This competitive disadvantage results in fewer enrollments, diminished faculty recruitment, and missed partnerships or research opportunities, positioning the institution behind in the evolving educational landscape.


Colleges and Universities must prioritize their online presence to remain relevant and credible, with their website being a crucial enrollment tool.  

An outdated CMS affects digital aesthetics and leads to decreased enrollments, reduced online visibility, and increased security risks.

They result in higher maintenance costs, inefficient workflows, poor mobile experiences, and challenges in fundraising and place institutions at a competitive disadvantage.

As the enrollment cliff approaches, institutions must address these challenges.

Cascade CMS by Hannon Hill can help higher-ed institutions modernize their online presence, ensuring they are well-equipped to face the evolving educational landscape.  

To schedule a discovery call, complete the form below to take the first step toward a modern, seamless visitor experience.


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Chris Rapozo
Marketing Specialist


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