Student fee powers UVM technology

Each year, students enrolled at UVM generate hundreds of thousands of dollars to support technological advances at the University.Students pay an annual fee of $75 that is added to the  Technology Innovation Fund (TIF). This fund is allocated to certain areas that are thought to need improvement.Chief Information Officer David Todd and Dean of Libraries Mara Saule co-chair the committee that evaluates requests to spend this technology fee.”TIF generates about $800,000 each year, but is not like other budgets, in that it is bundled as part of the Student Comprehensive Fee and can also accumulate across fiscal years,” Saule said. Todd and Saule said a survey was conducted last year by the Student Government Association (SGA) in order to understand where appropriate allocations were to be made. The final results of the survey suggested students wanted “more wireless coverage in student-centric areas, more elaborate course descriptions on the course registration page, wireless networks in residence hall rooms, course syllabi on the course registration page and software volume licenses for Microsoft Office and Adobe products,” Todd said.Assistant Dean of Libraries Peter Blackmer said that one of the major uses of the technology fee is to keep classrooms up to par with technology such as projection screens and Internet access, with wireless computers being just one of these elements.”It helps the technology infrastructure of the entire University to be consistent with today’s demands,” Blackmer said. “For instance, Bailey/Howe Library is probably the most robust wireless environment right now on campus, and the main reason is because the student technology fee supported bringing that wireless environment up to the standard that it is today.”Saule said that the first couple of years of the fee were dedicated to upgrading all 106 general-purpose classrooms to a consistent level and expanding wireless Internet access in common areas such as the Bailey/Howe Library. Library Associate Professor Paul Philbin discussed the money spent in the past three years on classroom technology. He said that in fiscal year 2008, they spent $391,284.65, in fiscal year 2009 they spent $517.688.35 and they will spend approximately $104,022.78 in 2010.”A total spending under this budget is $1,289,398.81 for classroom technology since FY08,” Philbin said. “The amount for FY10 is year-to-date, as work is planned for winter break, as well as some following the end of classes after spring 2010 semester leading up to the end of the fiscal year.”He also said that spending in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 was done primarily to bring general-purpose classrooms up to a similar standard. Once that goal is acheived, the plan is to spend about $250,000 yearly to keep pace with equipment replacements and upgrades.Keeping up with technology can sometimes require additional financing.According to an SGA document from last year, 71.1 percent of medium-sized public universities have levied an institutional technology fee. Among UVM comparators, the average per-semester fee was $140.