New Jersey Commission on Higher Education

September 1997

Editorial on Higher Education Technology Infrastructure

By Alfred Koeppe, Member, NJ Commission on Higher Education

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Just as technology is reshaping our daily lives, it is also changing the nature of education from the elementary and secondary grades to college-level and graduate studies. Faculty and staff continue to be at the heart of our educational institutions, dedicating their time and expertise to the expansion and dissemination of knowledge and the facilitation of learning. It is our obligation to provide them with the tools and the competitive advantage afforded by advanced technology.

Advanced telecommunications and networking technologies have become integral to postsecondary teaching and learning and have opened new vistas for research and scientific discovery. Interactive communication among institutions, electronic access to data sources, and the Internet create exciting new opportunities for distance learning, student and faculty research, job training, and business/higher education partnerships. These and other emerging technologies help New Jersey students, and the institutions themselves, achieve their full potential while enhancing higher education’s crucial role in economic development.

Recognizing that an investment in higher education technology will pay off for all New Jerseyans, Governor Whitman and the Legislature recently established a Higher Education Technology Infrastructure Fund. Signed into law on September 3, the fund earmarks $50 million, which will be matched by institutional funds, to assist New Jersey’s public and independent colleges and universities develop the infrastructure necessary for high-speed voice, video, and data transmissions essential for today’s global, high tech economy. These dollars will enable 45 of New Jersey’s higher education institutions to enhance connectivity within and among campuses, as well as with elementary and secondary schools and libraries. The fund also provides $5 million for statewide library technology initiatives through the New Jersey State Library.

The infrastructure fund is an important step in addressing New Jersey’s higher education technology needs. It opens the door to:

Rapid advances in technology and growing demands on higher education will require continued support to further develop the infrastructure and keep it up to date. Affordable access to telecommunications services is also necessary for colleges and universities to take full advantage of new technologies that expand access and improve education.

New Jersey higher education’s broader economic development mission also relies on keeping pace with emergent technology. Institutions conduct applied research with important industrial applications and provide technology transfer to state industries. They conduct myriad job training programs and provide technical assistance to small and developing businesses. Up-to-date technology infrastructure and expanded telecommunications services are essential to these activities, and to the state’s continued economic well-being.

The enactment of the Higher Education Technology Infrastructure Fund strengthens the foundation for New Jersey’s future. The state’s investment in college, university, and library technology is part of its ongoing commitment to lifelong learning and to higher education excellence, access, and affordability. Maintaining that commitment is essential to an educated citizenry and New Jersey’s future economic growth.

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