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Number of Institutions with IT Networking Budgets Exceeding $2.5 Million Has Tripled over Last Year

Annual IT networking budgets over time

Annual IT networking budgets over time (Source: "State of ResNet 2019 Report," from the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International)

About one-third of higher education institutions have budgeted more than $2.5 million annually for on-campus technology and networking services — nearly triple the number of schools with budgets of that size last year. Why the increase? "The explosion of digital and mobile devices and their applications are requiring schools to spend more money on IT infrastructure and services to satisfy students and stay competitive with other colleges," according to the latest State of ResNet Report from the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International. For its eight annual survey, ACUHO-I polled 351 higher education administrators at 200 institutions about residential network trends, practices and policies to understand the challenges schools face providing high-performance networks in residence halls and campuswide.

The largest share of institutions, 48 percent, is budgeting between $750,000 and $2.5 million for IT networking, the survey found. And 20 percent of schools have less than $750,000 in their budget. Those funds cover areas such as infrastructure, hardware, software, cloud services, support and maintenance upgrades.

Survey respondents reported a variety of funding models, with the majority of schools using mixed resources to meet their IT networking needs. Thirty-three percent of respondents jointly fund the network through central university funds, student fees and departmental assistance; 28 percent fund the network as a core service from central university funds; 25 percent partially fund with student fees and partially through central university funds; and 10 percent employ a mix of departmental assistance and central university funds.

The majority of institutions surveyed charge a student technology fee to help recoup their IT networking costs. For more than half of schools, 53 percent, that fee applies to on-campus students only. Just nine percent charge both on- and off-campus students. And 32 percent of schools do not levy a general technology fee.

Notably, 62 percent of respondents expect the cost of wireless network services to increase over the next two years, and 43 percent expect an increase in cost of 5 percent or more. Many "express increasing concerns over the potential of funding to impact the way they manage the network," the report said. Sixty-six percent of respondents are concerned that capital funding for network infrastructure (or lack thereof) will impact its performance, while 54 percent said budget and cost predictability "may cause a roadblock." Thirty-four percent are concerned that "lack of funds for network support and help desks will impact their work."

The full report, including an infographic summarizing results, is available on the ACUHO-I site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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