losing_moneyLost or damaged assets cost the average school system nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year, including nearly $80,000 a year in technology equipment alone, according to a study by the market research firm Quality Education Data (QED). Large districts lose even more, the study says—some as much as $1.4 million in assets per year.

The study was commissioned by Follett, a maker of library and asset management software. Follett says the results point to the importance of having a solution that can centralize the management of district resources more effectively.

QED surveyed 479 district business managers, administrators, and technology chiefs in all 48 contiguous states. Respondents were asked about the problems they face in managing assets and the systems they use to keep track of their equipment. They also were asked to estimate the cost of loss, damage, or redundant purchases of these assets.

The study found that investments in educational technology, primarily computer and AV equipment, are among the assets most at risk. According to the study, the average district loses more than $80,000 in such ed-tech equipment annually. Districts that use manual tracking of computers and other equipment reported a 41-percent greater annual cost of lost or damaged goods than those using a commercial asset tracking program, and 32-percent greater loss than those using a spreadsheet or database program.

The study also found that districts typically have no single technique for managing assets, but often use multiple systems depending on the assets. Sixty-six percent of districts use two or more different kinds of tracking system. Most districts, 59 percent, are still using manual inventory systems or simple spreadsheets or databases to track at least some of their assets.

The results show that districts struggle with a number of problems in finding the time, money, personnel, and tools to keep track of assets, Follett said.

Rich Kaestner, total cost of ownership (TCO) expert for the Consortium for School Networking, an ed-tech leadership organization, said effective asset management is important for knowing how to manage school budgets more effectively.

(Next page: What effective asset management looks like—including examples for schools)