The student technology fee — which currently stands at $5 per credit hour — was never intended to fund salaried employees, but it has for the past nine years.
Since 2007, just prior to the economic recession, Lane was struggling financially and was looking for a way to fund its future. The idea to fund IT salaried positions came into question when revenue sources waned, because those positions take upwards of $400,000 a year to manage.
The technology fee has been going towards directly funding IT salaried positions at Lane since 2008, despite the tech fee guidelines stating funds “cannot be used to fund any salaried positions.” Salaried positions are supposed to come out of the general fund, but Lane’s archived records, which are public documents, show that in the 2007-08 school year the technology fee was used to pay for salaries under certain conditions. According to a narrative history page of the tech fee, those conditions were laid out during the 2006-07 academic year.
“1. As a one-time only budget reduction measure, five contracted classified positions in the IT department would be funded with the tech fee in order to relieve the general fund. 2. Tech fee support for part-time department technology support positions would be limited in the future to Science, Math and CIT.”
Bill Schuetz, the chief information officer at Lane, discussed the tech fee’s purpose of keeping technology up-to-date, and how the money is allocated.
“It started out as a $3 fee per credit,” Schuetz said. “The idea is — how do you create a good learning environment when you need the technology, software, the support people and the tech people who can fix them if they break? The idea of the fee was to collect this fee so we can support the whole technological infrastructure of the school. It’s people. It’s software. It’s hardware.”
The original $3 per credit hour technology fee was implemented back in 2002 by the Board of Education. It was raised to $5 per credit hour for all students and employees in 2009.
Archived records show that in 2008, after another year of approved salary funding coming out of the tech fee, there was not enough money for programs to request any support.
“After allowing for these positions, plus the department support positions, plus the traditionally highest ranked allocations (student Internet access and library databases) there was very little tech fee remaining to allocate,” the historical narrative record stated.
Programs at Lane must file a request form for any money to be used towards technology. The form requires staff and faculty to detail what they will be using the money for, and allocation is based on need. The entire campus at Lane requires money from the technology fee to help support their programs, and without that support programs struggle. Fiscal year 2008 saw 92 requests for funds with only 35 being granted according to the tech fee financials chart.
Over $450,000 of the $2,537,000 tech fee went towards paying salaries, the largest single allocation of money within that year’s report, according to the fiscal year 2014 archives. According to Mary Spilde, president of Lane, the tech fee is used with the support in mind.
“There are some positions to support students that come out of the tech fee,” Spilde said. “They use some of the student fees to help have actual human beings to help students. The idea with the student fee is that it’s to try and provide services that directly support and impact students.”
Unlike salaried positions, the tech fee allows money to be allocated towards student workers within the Learn and Earn Technology Student program. The LETS program was designed to employ student workers to help with technology around campus and allow them to get hands-on experience with troubleshooting. In the 2014 fiscal year, the money that was allocated to LETS was the second-largest single allocation of money, coming out at around $400,000.
The technology fee for 2016 is estimated to be almost $1,400,000, according to the fiscal year 2016 report, $445,000 of which is going towards contracted IT salaries.
The records that were referenced are public documents and are available at: http://2011sitearchive.lanecc.edu/it/techfee/alloc_brief.htm
Update: The contracted salaries did not start appearing on the tech fee allocations until the 2007-08 school year, not 2006-2007.