Sunday, January 21, 2007

Student Technology Fee


No one is particularly fond of new taxes (or fees), especially those people called upon to pay the tax/fee. But sometimes new sources of revenue are needed to help an organization meet its obligations. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society."

At the November 22nd meeting of the Arizona Board of Regent’s, ASU proposed a student technology fee of $100 per student, per year. The proposed fee is intended to supplement ASU’s existing state technology budget and allow for continued investment to meet student’s growing technology expectations. The fee is slated to be considered at ABOR's March meeting. While we'd all like to keep the cost of education as close to free as possible, I support this fee because I know how crucial it is to maintaining and advancing technology in support of the learning enterprise here at ASU.

As a student, your first instinct may be to oppose this fee, but I'd like to ask you to reconsider. I believe technology support is an important priority for many of you and supporting this fee is one way to ensure that ASU can continue to meet your growing and changing technology needs. At the UTO, we are working with ASU student government leaders to get them up to speed on the rationale behind the fee; as well, we're planning a series of open forums to be held in February on all 4 campuses so students can teach us more about their ideas and concerns. I'll be writing more on the timing of those Forums in a future post, but I wanted to share some of the background on the fee here, and in the podcast I did on Friday.

ASU isn't the first University to seek a fee like this one.
The quality of technology available to students has become an important factor in student recruitment and retention as well as the overall quality of the educational experience. But the increasing pace of technological change, combined with its rapid obsolescence, has escalated the funding pressure on universities as they struggle to keep pace with the advancing expectations of incoming students.

To augment institutional support for student computing, universities throughout the United States, including both the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, have already implemented student technology fees as a mechanism to provide a stable and recurring source of funding for student related technology initiatives.

In 2002, according to an EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research report, nearly 70 percent of public universities had instituted a mandatory student technology fee. According to that report, the average student technology fee at public universities was $197.

While the proposed fee will not defray all of ASU's student technology related costs, a focused fee structure will provide a targeted allocation for investment in student-related technology activities. The advantage of a student technology fee is that it will provide ASU with a stable and recurring source of revenue to be invested in technology with which we will continuously improve the quality of student computing.

A student technology fee would subsidize, but not replace, course fees. A student technology fee would be centrally managed, while course fees are local to departments and are much easier to adjust as changes in the curriculum occur. Course fees are well-understood and well-managed funding vehicles that are meeting existing departmental course needs. The proposed student technology fee will be used to fund university-wide projects that directly serve student needs. Appropriate uses of the proposed fee will focus on supporting student co-curricular IT services not currently funded through course fees.

A Student Survey
ASU students have a broad array of unmet technology desires and expectations. Fulfilling these expectations enriches students' academic experience and helps them make the most of the substantial technology investments they already make on their own behalf - in the laptops, desktops, cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players and other personal computing devices they bring to school with them.

The 2006 university-wide survey of the technology habits and desires of ASU’s students provides insight into ASU student attitudes toward technology. It suggests that ASU consists of a student body that is technologically savvy; a student body that brings its own tools to school – phones, computers and other devices; a student body that uses these tools every day to stay connected with their community and to further their academic careers.

But the survey also reveals a student body that expects the University to do more for them in the area of technology. They want more connectivity, they want better technology support services, they want the academic experience to make better use of emerging technologies. In the survey, the students make it clear that they want ubiquitous wireless connectivity, better technology support, a broader range of software and services, accessible from anywhere. The fulfillment of these needs is the purpose of the proposed fee.

Related Excerpts from the Survey Results
When asked if it would be useful for ASU to create a model in which student's pay a technology fee to advance technology and support services, 33% said yes, 36% were indifferent. 31% were opposed.

When asked to prioritize the features and support they would most like to see result from the fee, responses were consistent across campuses and between graduate and undergraduate students. Through analysis of fixed response and open ended questions, the most prominent requests included:

  • Wireless everywhere

  • Increased support for 1:1 computing

  • Enhancing common computing areas

  • More comfortable environments to use laptops and work together

  • Automatic creation of podcasts for all lectures

  • Mobile phone services

  • A print quota rather than per-page charges

  • Increased access to software, including Microsoft Office and the Adobe Creative suites

  • 24x7 help desk support capable of providing assistance with all aspects of technology use and access

For 2007, ASU is proposing three projects which will be partially funded by the student technology initiative. All three are in line with student technology priorities as revealed by the student technology survey. The three initiatives are:

  • Continued expansion of the ASU wireless network to provide ubiquitous mobile connectivity on all of ASU’s campuses

  • Deployment of a service to increase access to common software tools for ASU students to increase the value of personal technology investments

  • Development of one or more additional technology services – e.g. enhanced podcasting support, extended service hours, increased printing support, expanded software bundle, increased support for laptop computers – identified by students as important, to be chosen in direct consultation with student representatives.

The UTO will be responsible for the implementation of initiatives funded by the Student Technology Investment. To help ensure that these initiatives are responsive to student needs, the University will appoint a Student Technology Council (STC) that will be responsible for working with the UTO to represent student interests and advise the UTO on how best to allocate the Student Technology Investment in alignment with student priorities.

To assist the STC in its oversight of UTO’s administration of the Student Technology Investment, the UTO will develop detailed financial and technical proposals for projects of interest to students for the STC to help choose from.

A representative of the STC will also have a seat on the University Technology Council, the advisory body which provides technology direction for ASU as a whole.

The STC provides an ongoing mechanism for students to help shape their technology environment and to help the university focus resources on student priorities.

Student Technology Investment Estimate
Proposed Fee $100
Estimated number of students 65,000
Total Student Technology Investment $6,500,000

Investment Breakdown
Financial Aid Reserve $975,000
UTO Directed Investment $4,550,000
Student Guided Investment $975,000

Investment Plan for 2007
UTO Directed Investment
Expanding/Improving University Wireless Network $2,350,000
Expanding/Improving Software Access $2,200,000

Options for Student Directed Investment
Instituting/Expanding the Student Print Quota $300,000
Expanded Academic Podcasting $300,000
Expanded Software Bundle $780,000
Expanded Service Hours $400,000
Expanded Laptop Support $500,000


Anthony Garone February 13, 2007 at 5:52 AM  

I am against this fee.

I spent more than four years as a student and am now an employee here at ASU. I can tell you firsthand how politics interfere with progress at this increasingly bureaucratic institution. While it may be debateable as to whether the proposed outcomes of the fee will make our students more successful or earn better grades, it is a guarantee that this fee will be one more reason for many students to feel disgruntled with this growing university. And it is no surprise to me that ASU's only supposedly-viable option to expand IT support is to throw more money at the problem. Whether or not the fee is enacted, ASU students will continue to learn, continue to earn degrees, and pay whatever expenses necessary (or unnecessary) to further their education. Life goes on.

ASU, like many other large governmental institutions, will likely never choose to remove deadwood from its branches. Rather than take a careful look at who's worth his/her salary and pare down to reorganize currently existing funds, it will ask for more funding (first from the state, which will decline or not send the funds, and then to the students, who will have little or no choice), hire more people as a result of receiving the funds, decide it's not enough, and probably increase the technology fee in a couple of years.

I do want to say that I am not a pessimist, but ASU has been a part of my life for the last five or six years and it never ceases to amaze me--in a bad way. Its ways are predictable and always leave me wondering, "Why?" I can promise you that I am not the only person I know who feels this way. If there is a better way, ASU won't find it, unless it involves asking for more money. Instead, it will become more and more a Microsoft-like behemoth with too many managers with too much power and too much to say. Nothing will get done and the university will only get to be bigger, more expensive, and less impressive every year. As a good friend of mine used to say, "Why do I go to ASU? Eh, it's good enough for me."

Either way, $100 per semester isn't the end of the world. My question to the UTO is: what will happen if the technology fee isn't assessed? From the blog post, it doesn't sound like anyone wants to talk about that.

Erik,  February 13, 2007 at 5:47 PM  

The print quota seems far fetched. Maybe I do not understand, but we are essentially paying up front for printing services? What about the students who take online courses and do not print on campus? I understand idea of everyone paying a flat fee to benefit the greater good, but lets face it...ASU is a commuter school. Is ASU gearing up for more students on campus? If so, then a print quota and extended services makes sense.

University Technology Officer » Blog Archive » More on the Tech Fee… February 19, 2007 at 5:08 AM  

[...] I’d like to thank those students who made time to attended one of the meetings or who have posted comments online, either at my blog, or at one of the two facebook sites devoted the fee, one in support and one in opposition. Clearly the fee proposal has its student supporters and its opponents, but regardless of position, I have found the discussion interesting and helpful. While I would have hoped for stronger turnouts at the forums — none of the meetings had more than a dozen or so attendees — the students who did comeout drove a lively and informed discussion of the options. [...]