It’s no secret – the cost of a good education has a hefty price tag. In today’s world, technology plays a huge part of that and, after several years of recession, school districts are now seeing those costs rise again. The numbers, trends and opinions seem to vary but one thing is for certain; the increasing use of edtech hardware and software indicates the need for school districts to stay ahead of the game.
According to EdNET Insight and CB Insights – both trend consulting services for K-12 educators – the end of the 2015-2016 calendar school year will see higher expenditures for hardware and software than in previous years. Because teaching methods are evolving, online testing and interactive learning are a couple of reasons for the higher costs. On the flip side, while technology costs are up, school educators surveyed say their technology support and teacher training budgets have slightly decreased from the 2014-2015 calendar year.
The numbers, compiled form a handful of school spending industry reports, vary somewhat. But the bottom line is the same; more money is going toward – and needed for – education.
In 2013, “high-tech” hardware and software cost schools worldwide about $13 billion, says FutureSource Consulting. In the United States, more than $4 billion of that amount was for creating applications and accesses to mobile devices. From 2012 to 2013, classroom and teaching technology costs grew 11 percent for students in K-12, alone. The company estimates that, by 2019, spending on educational technology throughout the world will hit $19 billion per year.
In 2014, education technology spending capped at about $1.87 billion dollars – up from only $385 million in 2009. The 2015-2016 calendar year should reach the $2 billion mark, says CB Insights.
In 2015, says consultant IDC Government Insights, colleges and universities in the United States alone will have spent $6.6 billion dollars on Information Technology (IT) services, applications, hardware and software.
Apple’s iPads and iPad minis handle a majority of mobile device applications in the United States, says FutureSource, but Android and Windows are continuously on the rise, as is Google’s Chromebooks for education. The compatibility from one device or hardware source to another isn’t always optimum and the changes in technology can add more glitches to the educational and financial value of each unit. The hardware, most of which is manufactured in locations out of the United States, may not sync up well with every device.
Educational Technology. Two words starting in capital letters because it is Big Business, these days. Within the years of advancement, starting in the 1960s, society obtained improved computer systems that allowed college students to listen to pre-recorded lectures and find file-accessed course information to view on their own time schedule. Within the next couple of decades, college courses were available online and accessible at school libraries. Video conferencing came next and then, beginning in the mid-1990s, the Internet paved the way for online classes. Online distance learning programs jumped by 65 percent for K-12 students, between 2002 and 2005 alone, notes the National Center for Education Statistics. Now, because everyone seems to have some type of laptop computer, iPad or other tablet, and a “smartphone” in the backpack, schools must keep up with educational technology that bests suit their students.
How can school districts actually pay for all this high-tech stuff? It varies by location because, in the United States especially, school districts are cutting budgets. Property tax monies, bond issues and levies only go so far and the feasibility of raising taxpayer dollars earmarked for technology hardware and software is a challenge – especially when so many other school needs must be met. Investing in computer components that can become outdated and merely obsolete before they’re paid for is not convincing to taxpayers. With new and “improved” devices on the market every day, schools face increasing challenges to keep up with technological demands. Some districts may be lucky enough to receive substantial financial assistance from area businesses and companies, but it isn’t always an upswing venture. Many cities provide tax abatements to companies in efforts to lure them (and the jobs they bring) to the area. The tax payments saved by the company often mean that there are fewer dollars going to the school district.
The cost of information technology and edtech hardware, software and components has risen steadily over the last few years and it’s not expected to taper off, any time soon. IDC Government Insights notes in its study, The Pivot Table: U.S. Education IT Spending Guide, that educational spending for informational technology will expand even further. In 2016, for example, the cost for K-12 and higher education’s educational technology hardware will rise nearly 2 percent. At the same time, though, because most of the infrastructure and groundwork is already in place, the costs would typically reflect routine upgrades.