Determining how much to fund their school’s IT departments is a big issue facing higher ed leaders. Even before COVID-19, colleges and universities were feeling the pinch to reduce IT costs to decrease strain on their budgets.
However, as institutional leaders consider their options for long-term sustainability, they must stop thinking about their IT departments as a cost center that can be cut and trimmed to save money. Instead, IT must be viewed as a strategic partner for generating revenue and enabling innovation within the university ecosystem.
Technology is now embedded in every facet of the student journey. It’s changing how students learn, faculty teach and higher ed institutions operate. IT will play a key role in the transformation of higher ed, and IT professionals should be at the core of envisioning how tech can enable their school’s futures.
4 reasons underfunded IT departments can’t move their institutions forward
If the proper investments in the required tech capabilities and staff aren’t made, schools’ IT departments will have very little capacity for minor improvements, much less the ability to offer transformational benefits. Read on to learn the top four risks associated with underfunding higher ed IT departments.
1. Increased risk of security breaches
Over the years, higher ed has become a prime target for cyber attacks. Most concerning has been the rise of ransomware attacks. Schools are made vulnerable to these attacks by using old technology, or unpatched and unsupported software and operating systems. This aging IT infrastructure, coupled with vulnerabilities from widespread remote learning, unsecured WiFi connections and untrained user networks, has raised the level of cybersecurity risks to an unprecedented level. To minimize risks, higher ed leaders must invest in reoccurring upgrades to software, hardware and the network, as well as a robust cybersecurity strategy.
2. Increased costs (or loss of revenue)
Many institutions are using outdated, legacy software and operating systems. This can be expensive to maintain, creating unnecessary overhead costs. Additionally, technologically outdated campuses risk losing students because they don’t offer the digital experiences that consumers expect. If a school’s technology – or its IT support team – is unreliable, unsecure or offers a poor experience, students may leave. In these cases, technology not only undermines the initiatives of the school, but directly impacts its bottom line.
3. Decreased efficiency and productivity
Outdated or insufficiently maintained systems present a big risk to daily operations. For example, if WiFi goes down on campus, or students and faculty are unable to access the LMS and SIS, business and educational operations can come to a halt. Or, if tech systems are left outdated and can’t connect with each other, faculty may spend too much time uploading files and running processes by hand, and IT teams may spend most of their time patching and maintaining on-premise systems.
In addition, if a school’s data backup solution is out of date and the systems that help keep it secure fail, then there’s a higher chance of losing student data. And finally, school staff will find it very hard to analyze data to inform institutional decisions if a school is running multiple software systems that aren’t configured to work together. To increase their efficiency, avoid system downtime and prevent data loss, higher ed leaders must invest in migrating their data center to the cloud.
4. Lower IT staff retention rates
The typical higher ed IT department tends to be understaffed, underfunded and overworked. Over the last year, IT teams have become around-the-clock, on-call operators who are working hard to facilitate uninterrupted learning by managing IT infrastructure, providing access to VPNs and resolving all other incidents. To keep up with the increasing demand, IT departments must be adequately staffed to act quickly and perform in a way that satisfactorily represents their school’s brand. Without proper staffing and compensation, IT professionals are likely to burn out as their morale drops.
It’s time to properly invest in information technology
College and university IT departments oversee an essential resource that impacts every student, faculty and staff member. As the demand for tech-enabled education experiences grows, higher ed leaders can no longer get away with underfunded, understaffed and overworked IT departments. The schools that understand the importance of prioritizing and funding their technology initiatives will be better prepared to handle the evolving landscape in the future.
If your school is looking to build up its IT resources or needs guidance and expertise to support its goals, Collegis Education can help. We’ve worked for many years with a wide variety of institutions on the management of their technology ecosystems, as well as the deployment of online and hybrid programs.