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U.S. Education Institutions Spend $6.6 Billion on IT in 2015

Resources like tablets, notebooks and learning apps are more relevant to students than ever before, and they have a huge place in the world of education.

There’s no doubt about it: We live in a technology-driven world. From smartphones to smart watches to smart TVs to smart cars, we love to lead a “smart” life. But technology also has a place in education, and it’s quickly becoming a staple in classrooms across the nation.

While computers and projectors have long since been around, a recent report released by IDC Government Insights revealed upcoming investments in technology at levels we’ve never seen before. In fact, the report forecasts that United States higher education institutions will spend $6.6 billion on IT in 2015 alone. 

The Pivot Table: U.S. Education IT Spending Guide, Version 1 is the first of its kind, and it looked at tens of thousands of data points to evaluate and forecast IT spending within educational settings. The report found that more than 89 million students are currently enrolled in an educational institution, in full-time, part-time and continuing education capacities. 

The spending guide evaluated IT spending on a state-by-state basis and found that the most education IT spending occurs in California at approximately $2.3 billion in 2015. Runners up for IT education consumption are Texas ($1.2 billion in 2015) and New York ($1.1 billion in 2015). 

In addition to higher education, IT spending in United States K-12 schools is expected to increase to about $4.7 billion in 2015. Much of that spending is expected to be on general PC upgrades or investments in applications.  

One type of technology, however, is expected to grow across all education levels: tablets and readers. These products are forecasted to increase by 8 percent by the end of 2015, resulting in a total spending of $522 million on those products alone. 

Also of note was an uptick in 2014 spending across all education levels on notebook computers at more than $4 billion. According to the data collected, the report suggests that spending on notebook computers will likely drop by approximately 6.9 percent in 2015. 

This spike in IT spending is the result of a few factors, said Shawn McCarthy, the report's author and research director at IDC Government Insights. “For the short term, we are coming out of a bit of a spike in spending for PCs (mostly laptops and notebooks)," he said. "We believe the spike was prompted by both tax base recoveries as the economy improved and because Microsoft ended support for Windows XP, which prompted many schools to replace older PCs that they had been nursing along."

But this level of IT spending in education is not expected to flatten out any time soon. In fact, it is expected to stay constant and even grow, as technology becomes even more important in the modern classroom. Looking ahead at the next couple years, the report notes that in 2016, 1.8 percent growth is expected for K-12 education levels, and 1.7 percent growth is expected for higher education levels.

“Investments in network equipment and broadband solutions are steady,” McCarthy said. “We do not expect to see a spike in spending, but rather slow steady growth via routine upgrades, as needed.”

While IT products and solutions of all kinds have a place in education, there appears to be certain products that you can expect to see much more of than others. Tablet computers seem to be most in demand as the next optimal classroom resource, especially for use in science and one-off trainings apps. 

McCarthy also notes that versatility will play a huge role when it comes to implementing popular IT products in classrooms. “Many schools do not want to purchase both notebook computers and tablets,” he says. “We believe that devices which offer an all-in-one capability will grow in popularity.”

As we continue to move through the year, this increase in nationwide education IT spending is the beginning of a shift to the “smart” classroom. Resources like tablets, notebooks and learning apps are more relevant to students than ever before, and they have a huge place in the world of education.