Nov 05 2009

Campuses Wrestle with Tight IT Budgets

IT managers face dollar squeeze as demands for computing services escalate.

IT managers at the nation's colleges and universities face tighter budgets than ever at a time when the demand on campus for computing products and services continues to rise.

The 2009 Campus Computing Project Survey found that nearly half of the survey respondents report budget cuts for the current academic year. This is compared with less than a third in 2008 and slightly more than 13 percent in 2007.

Kenneth “Casey” Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project, delivered the findings of the 20th annual survey at Educause in Denver. The survey is based on responses from 500 IT managers across a broad spectrum of institutions, both public and private.

“These budget cuts play havoc with efforts to respond to the rising demand for IT resources and services,” Green says. “College and university IT units were just beginning to recover from the budget cuts that came early in the decade. No question that this latest round of IT budget reductions has consequences for infrastructure, instruction and support services for students and faculty.”

Hot on the Horizon

One interesting note from this year's survey: When asked what their biggest IT challenge would be over the next two- to three-year period, respondents did not specify any one issue. In the early part of the decade, says Green, IT managers cited instructional integration as a top concern, and during the past few years, IT security was an all-encompassing issue.

But, in 2009, financing IT and the replacement or upgrade of campus networks each received about 15 percent of the votes. The other top concerns of  IT managers include supporting online or distance education, upgrading enterprise resource planning systems, IT staffing, instructional integration and user support. Each of these issues scored about 10 percent.

Other findings of the survey include:

  • Thirty-eight percent of campuses have reorganized academic computing in the last two years, and 28 percent expect to restructure in the next two years.
  • Roughly 80 percent have a strategic plan for network security, which means that nearly 20 percent still don't have such a plan.
  • Eighty percent of colleges now have a strategic plan for emergency notification, and roughly 10 percent added Twitter to their resources for notification.
  • More than 75 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that eBook content will be an important source for instructional resources in five years.