This is the second in a series of articles focused on mitigating the effects of inflation in education. Read part 1 here.

As inflation continues to put the squeeze on schools across the country, many educational administrators are seeking out-of-the-box ideas for counteracting higher consumer prices. Since most schools operate on fixed budgets, unexpected expenses can cause serious logistical disruptions — especially when ongoing supply-chain snags cause paper and ink (along with many other supplies, such as pens and books) to arrive weeks or even months behind schedule.

In light of headaches like these, it’s no wonder that 25 percent of educators at both the K-12 and higher-ed levels have switched from “wet” paper-and-ink signatures to e-signatures — which are faster, cheaper, more environmentally sustainable, and far easier to keep track of. Even better, electronic signatures seamlessly integrate into PDFs, enabling admins to manage entire signing processes without having to worry about email attachments.

And it’s not just “easier access to information” that’s driving admins to adopt e-signatures, as many reported in a 2021 Hotwire survey. Research also shows that schools can save $3,000 or more for every “wet” signature they replace with a digital one, once the costs of paper, ink, staples, envelopes and stamps are factored into the equation. That makes e-signing a powerful defense against rising supply costs, at a time when such economical solutions are badly needed throughout the education sector.

Here, in part 2 of this three-part series, we’ll explore how digital documents and e-signatures are helping school admins reduce inflation-related expenses by eliminating paper from their workflows — following up on part 1, in which we saw how paperless technology can help teachers cut classroom costs by replacing paper forms and assignments with electronic ones. And next time, in part 3, we’ll discover how digital document ecosystems are enabling schools to save thousands of dollars institution-wide, by automating paperless processes.

For now, let’s take a closer look at some use cases in which school admins are leveraging digital document collaboration tools to combat inflated costs and streamline their departmental workflows. Along the way, you may get some ideas for making similar upgrades at your own school.

Document collaboration apps eliminate costly paper while enabling real-time teamwork.

Over the past few years, the rise of remote work has accelerated many institutions’ upgrades from paper to digital documents. And now that students and staff have returned to brick-and-mortar education environments, many administrators are bringing their favorite digital tools with them, and using those solutions to streamline their work in the back office, too. For example, if admins at your school use apps like Adobe Scan to convert paper forms into PDFs, then you already know how much time and money a digital document can save.

Say, for example, that you’re an administrator drafting an open letter to students’ parents — and you need to make sure all your department heads approve the wording. In the paper-centric world of the past, that would mean you’d have to print out each version of the letter, make copies for each of the department heads to annotate, integrate their feedback into the next draft, and repeat — wasting hundreds of dollars in paper and copier ink. Even if you’re collecting feedback by email, that still means you’ve got to send the attachment to all your department heads, figure out where their feedback applies, and keep track of who has which version.

Thankfully, modern digital document collaboration software makes all these annoyances obsolete. Acrobat makes it easy to share a PDF file with as many people as you like, in real time, simply by typing their contact info into the “Share” field within the file itself. That means there’s no need for printouts, copies, or even email attachments! Every person you share the PDF with will get a notification in the free Acrobat mobile or desktop app, and can instantly open the same file, add comments, make annotations, and tag other colleagues — all within the same file.

Paperless e-signature workflows keep forms organized while reducing mail costs.

A Hotwire survey reveals that 25 percent of educators at both the K-12 and higher-ed levels have switched from “wet” paper signatures to digital signatures, while 32 percent are investing in digital student information systems. As a result, they’re learning how to fight inflation and saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars per document — not only by reducing their reliance on costly paper and ink, but also by saving on envelopes, postage, and labor expenses.

For example, say you’re a department administrator who needs to send out a waiver for the parents of the senior class to complete. In yesteryear’s paper-centric world, you’d have to print out that form, then make thousands of copies — costing hundreds of dollars in paper and copier ink. Next you’d have to hand out all those copies to teachers, or to the entire senior class; or mail them, which would incur the additional costs of envelopes and postage; not to mention the cost of manual labor to prepare all those paper mailouts. And of course, you’d have to wait weeks for the paper forms to make their way back to your office, only to discover they’d been smudged or returned without signatures, requiring you to repeat the whole process.

Today, mercifully, apps like Scan have made all these costly processes unnecessary. Any document converted into a PDF can be turned into a digitally fillable form, with the help of Adobe’s Sensei AI technology. As its name suggests, Sensei senses where each response field in a doc is supposed to go, and automatically adds dynamic text boxes, drop-down fields, multi-selection menus, and more. You can even add your own custom response fields with just a few clicks, and add a “Submit” button that enables recipients to send the filled form back to you, right within Acrobat’s mobile or desktop app.

Digital cabinet solutions replace expensive storage space with secure cloud folders.

Many of us already use cloud-based “digital cabinets” like Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive to keep our files organized. Just as these solutions save us from having to store paper documents in cabinets around our houses, a professional-level cloud cabinet like Microsoft SharePoint can save your school thousands of dollars on storage costs, by helping you replace whole roomfuls of bulky filing cabinets with secure cloud folders.

What’s more, a department-wide digital cabinet keeps your institution’s documents organized and accessible with just a few keystrokes. That means you won’t have to pay for time-consuming and error-prone data entry — or for temp workers to dig through dusty drawers of paper organized according to some incomprehensible scheme from decades ago. Instead, a digital filing cabinet’s powerful indexing and search capabilities enable each authorized user to track down the documents they need in mere seconds — or even pull specific line items out of filed documents simply by typing in a search term.

For all these reasons and more, a full 70 percent of today’s education leaders agree that digital transformation is critical to their institutions’ long-term success in fighting inflation — a significant increase from just five years ago. And once you’ve begun digitizing documents, the next logical step on the road to digital transformation is to leverage the collaborative power of Adobe Acrobat, to replace entire paper-based processes with quicker, cheaper, more streamlined digital workflows.

Ready to take the next steps on your school’s digital transformation journey? Visit the Adobe Education Exchange website, and our Education Resource Hub, for free guides and how-to videos that’ll help you get started. See you there!

Digital Document ManagementDigital DocumentsDigital Signatures