In total, there are 89 computer labs across campus. Within those labs, there are 1,717 machines. However, according to a campus wide study, 94 percent of Pitt State students bring their own technology to class. Because of this, 50 percent of students never step foot into a computer lab on campus, excluding freshman orientation.
The Information Technology Committee was charged with collecting data and analyzing it to figure out how much the labs and technology are actually being used on campus. On that committee are students, faculty, and staff of PSU. Chief Information Officer Angela Neria says a lot of money could be saved and used for other academic purposes.
“…Many of the students and faculty in that group noticed that the labs are not very heavily used and recommended that it be studied in order to see how they are being used, how often they are being used, and if there could be some savings there for the academic… areas to use funds for other sorts of things,” Neria said. “…There are a lot of older labs (so) maybe there should be fewer labs but newer labs. All those kinds of questions came out…”
According to Neria, the lab sizes have not changed much since she attended Pitt State as a student.
“…What we know is that the world has changed,” Neria said. “…When I went to school here, we had about the same number of labs that we have now… I graduated in 1994 and at that time no one had a computer at home unless you were just really wealthy… We certainly did not have computers in our backpacks… Students have their own computing power so being able to save money by having fewer labs and that money being put towards other things is a positive…
The committee has not yet presented their recommendation to the Provost Leadership Council or the President’s Council but are still looking into some things.
“… The group has looked very heavily about how those savings could be used to improve the labs that remain (and) keep them more up to date,” Neria said. “…If you go out to school at KTC, you are going to see updated labs. If you have lots of classes in other parts of campus, you are going to see older labs… So, if I am an accounting student and I need access to specific software like SPSS when I login in it says, ‘Oh, that is Angela. She is an accounting student (and) she should have access to this software’ and I can actually use it on my personal machine as long as I am a student here… without having to actually purchase that software. So, we are trying to look at those kinds of things as well.”
Chair of the automotive technology department and member of the Information Technology Committee John Thompson says some programs at PSU require certain software and/or computer access and taking away that access would not beneficial to the students or the program.
“… It is such a challenge on campus to try and figure out what… computers could be considered “extra” because there is such a diversity of programs,” Thompson said. “…Clearly, we invest a lot of money… and (the computers) sit idle most of the year… The problem for us as the committee though is actually saying to a college or a program, ‘Hey, you need specifically to cut out half of your computers…’ It is virtually impossible for us because we just don’t know what they use the computers for. I like the phrase that somebody said during one of our groups. They said, ‘… we only use our car twice a day, so it sits way more than it gets used but it is still very necessary…’ As a car guy, that really rang with me and so I have kind of looked at that and considered the validity of that statement which is just because something is not used all the time, doesn’t mean you can get rid of it either…”
According to Thompson, the committee does not want to restrict access to students who cannot afford their own devices.
“… The main thing that we also want to do is make sure that not only our programs have the resources they need… we need to make sure that we support those students out there who do use those machines,” Thompson said. “We have a population in our student body that can’t afford a laptop (and) that is just a fact. So, then we don’t feel comfortable taking away that resource for that potential student. Even though most students have their own personal device, there is still a number of students out there who can’t afford it and so we need to absolutely consider them in every step that we make and every recommendation that comes down because we don’t want to hurt a program or a student.”