Funding university IT

The university environment is quite a bit different than the K-12 environment -- in large part because, public higher education is not dependent solely upon state funding.  In the case of private schools, there is no state funding at all, and federal funding usually comes with the same strings attached as the federal funding received by publicly-funded institutions.

The university environment is quite a bit different than the K-12 environment -- in large part because, public higher education is not dependent solely upon state funding.  In the case of private schools, there is no state funding at all, and federal funding usually comes with the same strings attached as the federal funding received by publicly-funded institutions. 

There is a downside to this of course but the overwhelming upside is that the university has a great deal more latitude in managing its own budgets -- thanks to alternative sources of income: primarily tuition and fees (which are generally higher for out-of-state students) and private and public research grants, as well as general support from individuals and corporate donors.  (And let's not forget revenues from sporting events.)

Still, the effectiveness of university IT varies greatly from institution to institution -- and even from campus to campus within the same institution.  This variation may be tied to the nature of the institution but generally, the larger the institution, the greater its opportunities to leverage it's budgets (and hence it's buying power) in creative ways. 

The most effective models for Education IT in these environments (whether public or private) are those which assess their students a 'technology fee' which is committed to information technology expenditures. Whatever the magnitude of this fee, by it's very nature it insures a life-cycle funding model which provides -- in perpetuity -- a level of funding proportionate to the student population. 

Whether this pot of 'technology fee' money is managed centrally or distributed to various units of the institution using some formula will also impact how effectively this money is used to the benefit of students.  For instance, some projects (usually infrastructure-related) are too large to be implemented in a cost-effective manner from multiple pools of funds distributed across diverse units of the university -- each of which having their own IT agenda.

However this 'technology fee' is distributed, it is helpful if it remains in the hands of those with an understanding of the potential of the technology as a whole -- not just those with the immediate needs of individual academic units in mind. 

How does your college or university fund its information technology initiatives?

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