How to grow campus technology amid shrinking resources

Baker led CSU Northridge's conversion to Gmail, which saved $160,000 annually.
Baker led CSU Northridge's conversion to Gmail, which saved $160,000 annually.

Being an IT official at a California university today requires a close look at any measures that can save the campus cash. But Hilary Baker, vice president for IT at California State University Northridge, has found ways to maintain—and even improve—technology services despite massive statewide budget cuts.

Baker, who came to the Northridge campus in 2006, said budget planning has taken on new significance during the country’s economic slump as university technology officials brace for a 5-percent budget cut this year and another 5-percent reduction next year.

“They probably are worse than any of us thought they would be,” Baker said, adding that open IT positions will be left unfilled this year as a cost-cutting measure.

California legislators cut the state university system’s budget by $584 million, or 20 percent, for the 2009-10 school year. The Northridge campus has operated this academic year with $41 million in cuts—24 percent of its overall budget.

Baker and her staff responded to the money squeeze in many ways, including the use of Google Gmail for student and faculty eMail accounts—saving $160,000 annually.

CSU Northridge also plans to use the open-source learning management system Moodle this year, instead of the popular WebCT and its expensive software license.

The university also joined the growing higher-education movement toward server virtualization, or using off-campus servers to maintain technology services rather than using space and massive amounts of energy storing and powering server racks on campus.

Denny Carter

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