In response to the virtual school year, the Department of Information Technology at Cal State Fullerton is spending more than ever to provide students, faculty and staff with personal MiFi hotspots and devices.
Upon receiving the coronavirus relief funds, President Fram Virjee placed the IT department high on the priority list. Funds were allocated to the department in order to support the needs of the CSUF community, with only a small portion of funding coming from the university reserves.
Rommel Hidalgo, an associate vice president for the IT department, said in an email that over 2,000 MiFi’s were distributed to students and faculty, which is over double of what was previously available before the pandemic.
“It costs about $50/month to maintain that internet connectivity service,” Hidalgo said. “This is over $100,000 in additional monthly expenses that the campus has committed to provide to the students, faculty and staff to enable them to attend classes and work remotely.”
Hidalgo said the department coordinated with the CSUF colleges prior to summer in order to acquire an adequate amount of devices for the fall. Now that spring has been confirmed to be virtual as well, the department hopes the amount they have will be enough to carry out the school year.
Of all the disparities the pandemic has highlighted, access to necessary materials and devices is one that the university is able to cater to. Whether a student does not have a laptop, webcam or needs stronger WiFi for Zoom classes, the IT department provides the items free of charge.
Upon approval, Cesar Lopez, a CSUF graduate student in the teaching credential program, was able to easily pick up MiFi devices from campus in a contactless manner. In case of internet issues, Lopez is able to use the devices borrowed from the university to securely connect to Zoom.
In addition to the MiFi’s, the department has also spent money on Proctorio software, which has received a negative response from students. The university’s current contract with Proctorio is a one year unlimited license offering students and faculty free access to exam monitoring.
Hidalgo said that CSUF received a $200,000 discount for the contract in place with Proctorio. However, if they do not receive additional funding, the university may not be able to afford to renew the contract when it expires at the end of summer 2021.
With all the accrued costs, Hidalgo said they are doing all they can for the CSUF community despite budget cuts.
“The focus, as always, has been to ensure the services, technologies, software and projects continue to contribute to student success,” Hidalgo said.