Colleges and universities are making progress in developing and deploying campus Web portals according to new data from the 2002 Campus Computing Survey. Over one-fifth (21.2 percent) of the campuses participating in the 2002 Campus Computing Survey report that they have a “single/initial sign-on campus portal” up and functioning as of fall 2002. Another fifth (20.4 percent) report that the campus portal is “under development” or being installed in the current academic year. Just under a third (29.5 percent) of the participating campuses indicate that portal issues are now “under review/discussion” at their institutions, while a similar proportion (29.0 percent) report no portal planning or related activities at their institution.
“The 2002 data indicate that Web portals are finally making the transition from an abstract concept into a real institutional service,” says Kenneth C. Green, founding director of The Campus Computing Project and a visiting scholar at The Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA. “Moreover, the campus investment in portals can be seen in the broader context of a new commitment to enhanced institutional services across all sectors of higher education.”
Green cites other data from the 2002 survey that reflect the campus commitment to Web portals. For example, a fifth (24.9 percent) of the campuses participating in the 2002 survey currently have a strategic plan for portal services; another third (32.7 percent) are now developing these plans. Survey respondents rate “providing a campus portal for Web-based student services” at 5.5 (scale: 1=not important; 7=very important), up from 5.3 in 2001 and 5.2 in 2000.
The 2002 survey data also reveal gains on eCommerce and eService issues. Two-fifths (40.5 percent) of the nation’s colleges and universities can process credit card payments from their campus Web sites, up from 27.6 percent in 2001 and more than double the number from 2000 (18.6 percent). In contrast, just 5.1 percent of the campuses participating in the 1998 survey could process credit card transactions from their Web sites. More than two-thirds (70.9 percent) of the institutions participating in the 2002 survey report that their campus Web site offers on-line course registration, compared to just over half (55.4 percent) in 2001, 43.1 percent in 2000, and 20.9 percent in 1998
“Again this year the survey data show some significant gains on a number of key eCommerce and eService measures across all sectors of higher education,” says Dr. Green. Yet he reports that the campus community is still playing catch-up on eCom-merce and eService issues: “Considering the wide array of electronic commerce and electronic service options routinely available to students and faculty in the consumer and corporate sectors, it’s clear that the campus community is still roughly two years behind in its eCommerce/eService offerings.” At the end of the day, states Green, “the benchmark is still Amazon and other consumer sites that are all too familiar to students and faculty, and that offer a far richer array of information and services than are commonly available on most campus Web sites.”
Other data from the 2002 survey support Green’s comments about a lagging eCommerce/eService infrastructure. This year’s survey respondents rated the campus capacity for eCommerce 11th on a list 12 technology infrastructure metrics that include network and telecommunications services, user support services, online instructional resources, network security, and IT training for students and faculty.
Adding to the eService/eCommerce challenges ahead for colleges and universities are the budget cuts underway across all sectors of American higher education. The 2002 survey provides very clear indicators of major budget cuts and declining technology spending during the current academic year.
One-third (32.6 percent) of the institutions participating in the 2002 Campus Computing Survey report a decline in the academic computing budget at their campus for the current academic year, compared to just under a fifth (18.0 percent) in 2001 and about one-eighth (11.4 percent) in the 2000 survey report. The budget challenges were most pronounced in public universities, where this year budget cuts affected well over half the institutions (55.5 percent), compared to 27.9 percent in 2001 and just 11.8 percent in 2000.
Another indicator of troubled technology funding is the growing number of campuses reporting mid-year budget cuts. Fully one-fifth of the 2002 survey participants report mid-year budget cuts this past year, up from 8.0 percent in 2001 and 5.3 percent in 2000. As above, public universities were most affected by the mid-year cuts: in 2001/02: well over two-fifths (45.2 percent) experienced mid-year IT budget cuts, compared to just 13.1 percent in 2001 and 10.9 percent in 2000. The mid-year budget rescissions in public universities averaged 3.4 percent in A/Y 2002, compared to 4.3 percent in 2001 and 2.9 percent in 2000.
A final indicator of declining technology budgets for the current academic year (2002/03) is reflected in purchasing plans. Across all sectors, four key technology purchasing indicators (purchasing by academic units, purchasing by administrative units, all institutional purchases of desktop/notebook computers, and purchases of network servers) show declines in the percentage of campuses reporting “increased purchases” and greater numbers of institutions reporting “reduced purchasing,” compared to the 2001 and 2000 survey data.
“The budget cuts are not surprising,” states Green. He comments that the downturn in technology funding in higher education comes at the end of a seven year cycle in which campus technology budgets increased dramatically during mid- and late-1990s. Additionally, he notes that more than 40 states have moved from budget surpluses to deficits in the past two years: “The response in many states has been to make dramatic cuts in funding for higher education, often accompanied by large increases in tuition. Under these circumstances, IT budgets are an easy and obvious target.”
But Green also observes that the survey data show the IT budget cuts do not reflect a “cut across the board” strategy. Rather, the 2002 survey data suggest that campus efforts to upgrade or replace administrative/ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems will continue, even as other IT spending suffers. “Only 8.4 percent of the 2002 survey respondents report budget cuts affecting ERP software and services,” says Green. In contrast, he notes that one-third (33.8 percent) report a budget increase for ERP software and services, while almost three-fifths (57.9 percent) report no change in their ERP budgets. Additionally, less than one-fifth (17.7 percent) report that their campus is delaying or deferring ERP replacement or upgrades because of budget issues.
Although the majority of survey respondents seem somewhat optimistic that budget cuts will not have dire consequences for key technology initiatives on their campuses, many IT officials are clearly concerned. Almost a third (31.9 percent) “agree/strongly agree” that budget cuts will “severely impede efforts to enhance eLearning”; just over one-fourth (26.4 percent) “agree/strongly agree” that budget cuts will “severely impeded/interrupt ERP upgrade/replacement efforts.”
Roughly two-thirds (67.9 percent) of the institutions participating in the 2002 survey report that they have functioning wireless LANs, compared to half (50.6 percent) in 2001 and 29.6 percent in 2000. Another eighth (12.7 percent) report that wireless LANs will become functional this year. One tenth (10.0 percent) of the survey respondents indicate that full-campus wireless networks are up and running at their institutions as of fall 2002, compared to 6.2 percent in 2001 and 3.8 percent in 2000. Across all sectors, the 2002 data suggest that wireless services cover just under a fifth (18.3 percent) of the physical campus at those institutions reporting wireless networks, compared to 10.9 percent in 2001.
The annual Campus Computing Survey, now in its 13th year, is based on data provided by campus officials, typically the senior technology officer (CIO/CTO, vice president for information technology, etc.) at 632 two- and four-year public and priva
Copies of the 2002 Campus Computing Report will be available on December 10th. Price: $37 (plus $2.00 shipping). Order from Kenneth Green, c/o Campus Computing, PO Box 261242; Encino, CA 91426-1242.
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© Kenneth C. Green, 2002.