“Moving to the Cloud”: Going Cloud First at University of Pennsylvania

“Moving to the Cloud”: Going Cloud First at University of Pennsylvania

Moving an 18th Century University to the Cloud

UPenn is an Ivy League University. Founded in 1740, UPenn was the first university in the United States with both undergraduate and graduate studies. Today, the university has grown into a vast and complex organization with 25 thousand students and 12 different schools. Similarly, UPenn has recently undertaken a massive program to transform and grow the capabilities its IT infrastructure betting on a cloud-first strategy.

UPenn’s 2020 vision for inclusion

Each of UPenn’s 12 schools operates with a different budget, different teams and have different objectives. Yet, the entire University of Pennsylvania has come together to lay out its 2020 vision that encompasses 3 main priorities: Inclusion, Innovation and Impact.

The focus of “Inclusion” is to make premier-quality higher education —which costs around $60,000 per year at UPenn— available and accessible to all admitted applicants regardless of financial need. UPenn accomplishes this by an “all grant, no-loan” financial aid policy.

Over the past decade, dramatic advances have been made in increasing the diversity and excellence of UPenn’s student body. Presently, 53% of graduate and professional students are female, and 32% of undergraduates and 20% of graduate and professional students are U.S. minorities. This makes UPenn one of the most diverse university among the Top 10 Universities in the US.

Making donations as easy as online purchase

Achieving these numbers requires a disciplined and creative fundraising strategy to finance the “all grant, no-loan” financial aid policy. Private donations are indeed a key component of the budget for most higher education institutions in the US, and UPenn is no exception.

According to the Council for Aid to Education’s annual Voluntary Support of Education survey, in the fiscal year ending in June 2016, U.S. colleges and universities drew $41 billion in giving. At UPenn, there are 300,000 active donors in the database and the university processes 160,000 transactions every year. It is their donations that give students from all economic backgrounds the opportunity to go to such a prestigious university almost for free. This is why UPenn’s goal was to ensure that making a donation would be as easy as buying something on Amazon.

In 2017, UPenn updated its Online Giving application to make it easy to navigate, mobile-friendly and integrated with other university systems. In addition to being modern and simple, the new site had to be reliable and flexible to be able to support usual spike usage that occurs at the close of the U.S. tax year in December.

Using Talend to leverage cloud capabilities and bring together UPenn’s IT ecosystem

UPenn knew the new Online Giving application would be cloud-native to take full advantage of the availability and scalability benefits of the AWS platform.

Moving to the cloud-enabled UPenn to be ready for the seasonal spikes in donations, AWS made it possible to easily ramp or down its infrastructure to meet demand. The scalability of the AWS platform translates into reliability and cost savings for UPenn.

On the other hand, UPenn wanted to make online donations seamless and to personalize the whole process, so they chose Talend Cloud to easily manage the data integrations between the cloud-native applications and the legacy on-premises apps. Being able to collect large volumes of data at a precise arrival time for financial transactions, UPenn was able to develop more efficient fundraising campaigns.

The Onlive Giving app went live during the autumn of 2017. During the last peak in December 2017, UPenn recorded a 7% increase in the number of gifts, and an overall increase in revenue of 18%.

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