College IT officials: Show us the money … please

Funding topped the list of IT officials' concerns as college budgets stagnate.
Funding topped the list of IT officials' concerns as college budgets stagnate.

Technology funding in higher education will remain flat or decrease for the “foreseeable future,” according to an annual education technology report released June 10, as campus IT officials said funding was their top concern over the past year.

The survey of 424 campus technology decision makers shows that administrative systems, computer security, teaching and learning with technology, identity and access management, and disaster recovery also were among the top 10 most pressing issues.

EDUCAUSE, a higher-education technology advocacy group, conducted the survey, which was sent to nearly 2,000 college IT officials. The survey had a 22-percent response rate, according to EDUCAUSE.

IT leaders at research universities and community colleges alike have bemoaned the dwindling technology funds available during the economic downturn that started almost two years ago. Much of the discussion at EduComm, an education technology conference held June 7-9 in Las Vegas, centered on how campuses can stretch shrinking IT dollars with innovative technologies.

The EDUCAUSE report said that stagnating IT budgets might present an ideal “time to turn this issue completely on its head.”

“That is, rather than bemoaning insufficient funding for present and planned IT services and initiatives and trying to find the best ways to seek increased funds, perhaps the time has come for IT leaders to accept the level of funding for technology as a given and begin to work with others on campus to determine what services can be offered within the allocated budget,” the report said. “Rather than seeing the perceived (or real) lack of funding as a problem, perhaps IT leaders can see it as an opportunity to engage with other campus leaders in a meaningful discussion about priorities.”

Survey respondents ranked administrative and information systems second on their list of top concerns, although few respondents ranked this topic among those with the “potential to become more significant,” meaning technology chiefs are largely comfortable with their schools’ administrative computing.

“In other words, these systems are clearly of strategic importance to CIOs, consume much of their time, and are one of the largest expenditures in the IT budget, but they are generally viewed as stable operations…” the report said.

The increasingly sophisticated scam eMail campaigns flooding college faculty and students’ in-boxes is one reason security has remained near the top of IT department concerns, according to EDUCAUSE.

“Higher-education communities that once faced mass mailings about lottery winnings are now dealing with harder-to-recognize, more targeted scams, such as fake requests for funds using the name of a known faculty member and describing a seemingly believable issue with overseas travel,” the report said.

Security breaches can be costly: A report recently released by the Ponemon Institute, a Michigan-based independent research firm focusing on data protection, said that data-breach incidents “cost U.S. companies $204 per compromised customer record in 2009.”