Press Release - Consortium Makes Affordable Computers a Given

October 15, 2002

Consortium Makes Affordable Computers a Given for Maryland Schools

An agreement allowing students in school systems throughout Maryland to purchase or lease computer hardware for Microsoft and Apple applications at affordable prices has been reached by the Maryland Education Enterprise Consortium (MEEC), a University System of Maryland (USM) initiative which was designed to increase the accessibility of information technology for all students, from kindergarten through graduate school. 
 
With nearly 300,000 licensed users and 150 participating institutions from Maryland-based higher education as well as secondary and primary school systems, both public and private, MEEC has emerged as a national leader in the burgeoning marketplace of leveraged purchases of computer software. Having tripled in size since its start in 1999, MEEC's growth is expected to continue, as more students and teachers want affordable computers for use at home and in school. The initiative began with low-cost bundled software from Microsoft, and it has expanded into hardware as well as virus protection and Apple products.
 
USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan, who is chief steward of MEEC, said recently that the consortium represents the best use of available resources to address a basic need in education.
 
"Before MEEC started, our students, faculty and staff were on their own to a great degree in acquiring hardware and software for the purpose of teaching and learning," Kirwan said. "Our campuses have excellent information technology staffs, but their hands were pretty much tied when it came to helping everybody get the right computers. There were persistent questions about campus IT standards, and there was a division between those who could afford a computer and those who couldn't. MEEC completely changed that landscape, not just for our campuses, but for dozens of institutions across Maryland. Now, this basic tool - what I like to call the chalkboard of the 21st century - is readily available, and our students and teachers are the better for it."
 
Essentially, MEEC leverages the size and volume of all education providers in Maryland to provide high-quality software and hardware at prices not available elsewhere in the retail marketplace. More than 150 educational institutions in the state participate in MEEC initiatives, including higher education, K-12, public and private schools, and libraries. The consortium's initial goal was to negotiate an enterprise agreement with Microsoft. Since then, numerous other products, including anti-virus software and the recently awarded hardware contract, have been added. Participation in all aspects of the consortium is voluntary and non-exclusive.
 
Currently, MEEC holds a total of 278,870 user licenses, valued at $3.7 million this year. Of the 153 participating institutions, 11 provide the licenses for their enrolled students (five of those are USM campuses - Frostburg State and Salisbury universities, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County); the remainder allow the students to hold their own licenses. The licenses, which are standard in the IT industry, cover all institutionally-owned desktops, temporary personal home use for faculty and staff, and perpetual home-use for many college students. Where the institution holds the license, students are permitted to sign on to university-owned computers in libraries, dorms, and other public areas.
 
If MEEC had not started, potentially millions of dollars would have been spent by students, faculty, and staff seeking comparable software on the open market, with a less-than-certain guarantee that their purchases would be supported by their respective institutions. Many of these users would have simply opted out of upgrading their software and hardware, or shied away from owning their own computer equipment for at least part of their educational career.
 
The enterprise software licensed from Microsoft includes upgrades to the Windows operating system, Microsoft Office Suite for Windows and Mac, Microsoft Developer Suite (Visual Studio Professional), and Microsoft BackOffice Client Access Licenses for $12.81 per desktop, annually. A comparable suite of products purchased from Microsoft's education discount program would cost about $243 per desktop.
 
Other products available to institutions via an associated academic agreement include Microsoft server software, Encarta, MS Project, and Visio. The McAfee Active Virus Defense product suite provides institutional desktop, server and network protection to nearly 100 Maryland schools and libraries, covering 155,565 desktops. Through this suite, an added layer of virus protection is accomplished with personal home use licensing for faculty, staff and students in higher education. Another new product, Apple's Technology Assurance Program, provides Mac operating system upgrades to thousands of desktops in the state.
 
With the addition of the hardware contract, students at MEEC member institutions can order computers and peripherals directly from vendors who offer substantial discounts.  Faculty and staff are eligible to buy their home computers at the same discounted rates. Institutions, including libraries as well as schools, can buy or lease computers and peripherals at the discounted rate.
 
MEEC is part of the K-16 Alliance, a multi-institutional effort to create a seamless educational experience for Maryland students from kindergarten through post-graduate studies. Under the leadership of the USM, K-16 is working to reduce remediation for students entering college by bringing together professors and high school teachers to discuss curriculum, standards, etc. Students at all levels in all manner of schools benefit from consistent expectations concerning academic proficiencies, common calendars, and the like.
 
"Nothing is more wasteful in education than remediation," said Kirwan. "Teachers hate it, students hate it, it simply takes up time and money that could be better spent on advancing the student. To the extent that information technology has an inherent ability to enhance learning, MEEC provides some very effective, very affordable tools to get the job done. I believe it is helping us produce a better generation of learners."
 
More information about MEEC is available at www.meec-edu.org.


Contact:

Chris Hart
Phone: 301/445-2739
E-mail: chart@usmd.edu