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Report Findings: Trends in College and University IT

This summary of key findings from the Core Data Service Fiscal Year 2008 Summary Report was provided by Jarret Cummings, Special Assistant to the President, EDUCAUSE. Traveling to the EDUCAUSE Conference in Denver Nov. 3-6, 2009? Please visit DuraSpace at the Sun booth and plan on attending the DuraSpace, JA-SIG, Kuali, Sakai reception.
Boulder, CO, Washington, DC The association for information technology (IT) in higher education, announced the release of the Core Data Service Fiscal Year 2008 Summary Report. It summarizes findings from the 2008 EDUCAUSE Core Data Service survey, in which nearly 930 colleges and universities provided detailed information about their IT environments and practices in fiscal year 2008.
EDUCAUSE made significant changes in the report format to make the material more useful and accessible. Many tables have been replaced by charts and graphs so the reader can see patterns or make visual comparisons. The report now addresses trends in the data from 2004 to 2008. And rather than reporting means and medians for variables with highly skewed distributions, the 2008 report presents medians and, in some cases quartiles, to provide a more accurate picture of the data.
Key findings include:
• In all institutional classes except community colleges, the IT leader reports to the senior executive officer (e.g., president or chancellor) or the highest academic officer at the majority of institutions (60% or more).
• At community colleges, IT leaders are even more likely to report to the highest officer or highest administrative officer (almost 70%).
• The percentages on IT leader reporting relationships have been fairly stable over the last five years across most institutional types.
• The median ratio of student FTE to IT staff FTE is between 100- and 150-to-1 across most institutional categories, with community colleges having the highest ratio at roughly 200-to-1 and liberal arts institutions the lowest at 75-to-1.
• Adjusting for inflation, all classes of institutions generally saw centralized IT funding increase from 2004 to 2008, but it appears that this increase only kept pace with enrollment (and inflation). Median IT dollars spent per FTE student stayed relatively flat across institutional categories (adjusted for inflation).
• In 2008, centralized IT funding as a percentage of total campus expenditures varied from a low of 4% at doctoral-extensive universities and general baccalaureate institutions to a high of 7% at community colleges.
• Trends in median compensation (including benefits) for IT staff per FTE, when adjusted for inflation, remained fairly flat over the last five years.
• For 2008, approximately 70% of institutions reported using external suppliers for at least one IT function, reflecting a steady increase since 2004.
• Respondents reported that only 2–6% of institutions offered 24 x 7 help desks in 2008, except for the 20% of doctoral institutions with them; there are slight upward trends in this area in all classes over the last five years, though.
• Because many students rely on personal e-mail accounts, some campuses have stopped issuing institutional student e-mail addresses or are considering it. In 2004, only 1-2% of campuses considered this, but by 2008 nearly 10% of associate’s, baccalaureate, and master’s institutions and 25% of doctoral institutions were thinking about doing so.
• About two-thirds of campuses say they provide “intensive support” for faculty who are heavy technology users, including “opportunities for users to share experiences” (70-90% of institutions, depending on type), seminars (80-90%+ of campuses), and training on request (almost all campuses).
• To address unauthorized file sharing, some institutions offer students a campus-negotiated service for online music and movies. From 2004 to 2007, there was some increase across all classes of institutions in the percentage offering such a service, but sharp decreases from 2007 to 2008. In 2008, only 2% of community colleges, about 10% of baccalaureate and master’s institutions, and 25% of doctoral institutions offered this service.
• Relatively few institutions across most categories have bandwidth to the commodity Internet of 200 Mbps or better (about 25% of master’s and 10% of baccalaureate and associate’s).
• In contrast, most doctoral institutions report bandwidth to the commodity Internet of 200 Mbps or better and nearly 40% report connections of 1 Gbps-plus.
• Most campuses do track and/or shape bandwidth, for example, to limit the impact of large file downloads on their networks. The percentage that does not is less than 5% of doctoral, master’s, and baccalaureate institutions and about 10% of community colleges.
• About 70% of all campuses reported having conducted a campus IT security risk assessment, and the trend toward campuses conducting such assessments generally increased across each institutional category from 2004 to 2008.
• Institutions use many strategies to acquire information systems. In 2008, open-source applications were definitely in that mix, with 70% of doctoral institutions, 67% of baccalaureate institutions, 54% of master’s institutions, and 39% of community colleges reporting use of an open-source product (in most cases, a course management system), with or without customization.
• Purchasing a commercial product and implementing it with or without customization was the primary means of meeting information system needs in 2008, with rates ranging 72-88% across institutional categories.
• The percentage of institutions reporting that they had outsourced at least some of their information systems needs generally increased over the last five years, approaching or exceeding 20% of institutions in each category in 2008.
• Over the last five years, the use of homegrown systems declined for all institutions and for all system types surveyed, except library information systems, which have not had a history of homegrown development. Homegrown systems are still used most often for grants management, while homegrown course management systems seem to be disappearing.
To learn more about the Core Data Service and the benefits it offers to participating institutions, visit:
Access the complete EDUCAUSE Core Data Service Fiscal Year 2008 Summary Report
EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association and the foremost community of IT leaders and professionals committed to advancing higher education. EDUCAUSE programs and services are focused on analysis, advocacy, community building, professional development, and knowledge creation because IT plays a transformative role in higher education. EDUCAUSE supports those who lead, manage, and use information technology through a comprehensive range of resources and activities. For more information, visit