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4 surefire ways to get more for your edtech dollar

Looking for ways to stretch your technology budget? Here you go!

As warmer weather approaches, students start looking to spring break with excitement as a sign that the end of the school year is near. Not so for school IT directors, who are trying to determine how they will accomplish all of their summer projects in the absence of students and staff. These projects likely include planning their summer edtech refreshes and wondering how they are going to purchase everything they need with limited resources.

Finding the budget and time to do large technology refreshes will always be stressful, but there are a few ways IT directors can lessen the burden and get more for available dollars.

1. Use current technology to buy down the new fleet.
When it’s time to refresh devices, first look to your current technology fleet to determine its value. By making smart technology purchases and timing refreshes right, schools can use the residual value of their current devices to reduce the cost of purchasing the next fleet. I have found that there is enough equity in some devices after the second year to pay off the third and final year’s lease payment. This allows school districts to purchase more current hardware and software to ensure that educational goals for digital learning are met. Conversely, keeping devices too long can be a costly practice because schools miss out on the ability to leverage the optimal residual value of devices to offset the cost of the next purchase.

(Next page: 3 more ways to stretch your tech dollars)

2. Don’t pay cash.
For those of us who grew up being taught that “cash is king,” this can be a hard concept to understand. However, financing your technology purchases can end up costing less in the long run and can provide a better learning experience for students. There are several reasons that financing is an attractive option. First, it gives school districts a smaller, predictable expense for technology purchases instead of requiring a large capital outlay. Schools would never pay for three years of electrical service upfront, so why should technology purchases be treated this way?

When school districts make large capital purchases of technology, they tend to hang onto them far past the devices’ prime lifespan, causing students to miss out on important features and software upgrades. Since technology tends to get better and cost less year to year, districts may actually be able to purchase more devices for the same annual cost when it’s time to refresh. Finally, by financing, schools can adopt technology-sustainability plans that ensure all students are using the same aged devices and software, which makes the learning experience equitable and device support more efficient.

3. Avoid the summer doldrums.
IT directors often like to refresh devices when students are not in the classroom. This enables them to trade in devices, purchase new technology, and have a fresh fleet ready for students when they return in the fall. Unfortunately, many other schools have this same idea and the market becomes flooded with used devices, which drives down their residual values by as much as 20 percent versus a December refresh. For a school doing a mid- to large-size refresh, this can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost value. A better idea is to carefully plan refreshes during school breaks, working with a device trade-up partner with experience doing this. A district refreshing a fleet of 10,000 iPads could realize an additional $250,000 in residual value by refreshing devices outside of summer months. That’s the equivalent of about 850 additional iPads.

4. Refresh in intervals.
If the thought of doing a complete technology refresh over spring or fall break is overwhelming, break it down into four monthly intervals, such as December through March. This strategy allows IT directors to avoid the summer buy-back doldrums and realize a higher residual value for devices, while minimizing the impact on IT. Using the same example as above, a school district refreshing a fleet of 10,000 iPads could see an additional blended residual value of $177,500 by refreshing in stages versus a summer refresh. That’s the equivalent of more than 600 additional iPads.

With a little creative planning, school districts can stretch their technology budgets. And what school couldn’t use more money to fund technology?

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