Six Ways to Secure Funding for New Tech Investments

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Finding funding for new technology investments in higher education can often seem overwhelming and stressful given the current economic environment. However, there are strategies available to support new technological initiatives. Administrators just need to do their homework and remain persistent to secure the funding needed to deploy these essential advancements.

As a result of the U.S. economic downturn, higher education institutions have experienced a steep decline in the amount of government funding available to support advancement in various fields on campuses nationwide. Federal stimulus funds awarded during the first few years of the U.S. recession are now diminishing and are not being replenished. State budget cuts for institutions are continuing even though enrollments are increasing and the cost of educating a larger body of students is rising.

It should come as no surprise that institutions are struggling to fund the next-generation technologies and programs necessary for growth and development of students, professors, and the institution’s brands themselves.

Though funding is limited, administrators are still tasked with the seemingly impossible feat of ensuring that technological advancements are available within their institutions so that they remain competitive and can ensure faculty are able to deliver the highest-quality programs to their students. Lecture capture solutions are an example of new technologies necessary for growth, as they have already proven to increase student performance, increase students’ course completion rates and help students to retain more information, ultimately resulting in a more successful student body and reputation enhancement for the institution. Lecture capture solutions allow instructors to automatically record lectures so that students can access course material anywhere at any time.

To help administrators and institutions secure the necessary funding to continue these technology investments, McGraw-Hill Education, provider of the Tegrity Campus lecture capture system, and the Center for Digital Education came together to produce a research paper, “Funding Lecture Capture in Higher Education” (see the Resources section below), to bring to light various strategies higher education leaders can implement to fund lecture capture solutions.

The following are six mechanisms that, if implemented, can aid administrators in securing the necessary funding for their technological investments.

Federal Funds

Though educational budget cuts and diminishing stimulus money are the rule of the day, other forms of federal funds are still available. Annual mandatory and discretionary federal appropriations usually include a technological advancement clause where institutions can propose that lecture capture is essential for faculty and student development. For example, Missouri State University-West Plains was awarded with an HEA Title III Strengthening Institutions grant in 2010 that facilitated its lecture capture investment. Additionally, federal organizations like the U.S. Department of Labor award grants to community colleges to advance and expand innovative programs to prepare students for the workplace. You just have to turn over a few more stones!

Spread the Cost of Lecture Capture across Multiple Budgets

Institutions can spread the cost of lecture capture across several campus budgets—such as the general fund, maintenance and operations, instructional technology, student technology fees and IT funds—to avoid having one single budget bear the total weight. At Pace University (N.Y.), for example, student governance bodies used student fees to purchase its lecture capture solution thanks to the support of the students who actively requested the technology.

Non-government Grants

More than 280 private and public philanthropies provide non-government grants to fund causes the organizations value. In a 2010 Grantmakers for Education survey, a majority of organizations stated they value supporting innovative initiatives such as lecture capture solutions.

Bonds

General obligation bonds and revenue bonds are two additional means of funding lecture capture solutions. General obligation bonds are backed by state revenue and are unlikely to default. Therefore, bondholders (taxpayers) offer generally lower interest rates to the benefit of institutions. Alternatively, revenue bonds require institutions to produce revenue to pay off the debt accrued. These are usually riskier, though institutions can pay off the debt with such means as tuition and endowments.

Partnerships

U.S. businesses allocate funds for partnerships, donations and sponsorships each year. In addition, a chronic complaint of businesses is the lack of workforce-ready talent coming out of schools. Institutions can partner with these businesses to create curriculum and training programs to produce workforce-ready citizens. As part of this partnership, technological advancements, such as lecture capture, will be funded by these businesses. Institutions should also propose a general donation from such businesses to fund lecture capture solutions as it can be argued that the technology improves student outcomes and enables the advanced career preparation needed in the workforce.

Individual Donations

Both four-year and two-year institutions should reach out to their alumni base, communities, faculty, staff, and associations for individual donations. In 2010, the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota raised enough money solely through alumni donations to fund its lecture capture system. Administrators should fundraise through traditional means as well as emerging channels (e.g., social media), as the communications landscape has dramatically changed with alumni who have graduated recently. Social media platforms also offer a more direct form of communication that can continue and be updated in real time.

At the end of the day, funding university-level projects will, at times, be cause for debate, hard work, and frustration. Using these six mechanisms to drum up funding for important technology solutions, however, will help ensure institutions stay at the forefront of the technology revolution in good times and bad.

Tom Malek is vice president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education Learning Solutions and Services.

Read more »