IT Challenges Facing Higher Education in 2017

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In a previous post, we discussed the top IT priorities in higher education as outlined in the annual Educause report. College and universities are placing increased emphasis on student success, new learning models and the use of data. More specifically, schools are relying on data integration and data analytics to support student success initiatives, achieve institutional goals and improve operational efficiency.

But what are the biggest IT challenges facing higher education?

To answer this question, let’s take a look at the fall 2016 Campus Computing Survey conducted by the Campus Computing Project. This survey, which began in 1990, is the longest-running study of IT planning and policy issues in higher education. The latest report is based on data provided by chief information officers and campus IT officials from 339 two-year and four-year schools across America.

Budget cuts continue to make it difficult for higher education institutions to meet increasing demand for IT resources and services. Sixty-three percent of respondents said their campus “has not fully recovered from the budget cuts we have experienced over the past four-six years.” Nearly three in 10 are dealing with a decrease in IT funding for the 2016-2017 school year. Community colleges are the hardest hit, with 43 percent working with a lower budget than the prior year.

Budget cuts are prevalent despite the fact that 90 percent of survey respondents believe senior leadership at their institution understands the importance of value of IT investments. Eighty-four percent say faculty strongly supports the role of IT in education, and 55 percent of schools charge student technology fees averaging $275 per student. Yet IT budgets at too many schools continue to be slashed.

Directly related to budget cuts is the fact that higher education institutions are struggling to attract and retain IT personnel. Three-fourths of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their school’s salaries and benefits aren’t competitive with opportunities available off-campus. Attracting and retaining IT staff is particularly difficult in smaller towns where talent is scarce and competition is high. Twenty-eight percent of schools have cut IT staffing and 23 percent have cut funding for professional development.

While data analytics continues to be a high priority, most schools are failing to take full advantage of analytics tools and capabilities. Just 24 percent of survey respondents rate their school’s investments in analytics as “very effective,” and only 16 percent are very satisfied with existing analytics tools. Three quarters have no formal program in place to assess the impact of technology on learning outcomes. Although new analytics tools are being deployed, user training is often lacking. Training is essential to gaining actionable insights from data and applying these insights to student success initiatives.

Higher education also continues to struggle with IT security as 44 percent of survey respondents reported data loss due to hacking and device theft or loss during the 2015-2016 school year. Spyware, ransomware, disgruntled employees and incidents related to social media activity, such as bullying, are common security concerns.

Axiom’s data integration capabilities save higher education institutions valuable time and resources by creating one single version of the truth. We can integrate and validate any type of data from any source and upload this data directly into your student information system. Let us help you overcome budget cuts and analytics failures by providing you with the tools you need to better manage your data.