Higher Ed: Why Investing in Your Bandwidth Can Pay Off

In the past, we’ve discussed how colleges and universities can add bandwidth to their networks, even when faced with fiber constraints. However, given budget limitations, it may not always seem worth the investment. Why add bandwidth to your network when it’s “good enough”? In this article, we get into two big ways colleges and universities can benefit from a network bandwidth investment.

Attracting Students… and Keeping Them There

As early as 2008, college students recognized the importance of wi-fi to their education and quality of life. In a WiFi Alliance/Wakefield research survey from that year,  90% of college students said wi-fi access is critical to their education, and 79% reported they would not attend a college that did not offer free wi-fi.

Over the past decade, it has become even more critical. Today, most students have no memory of the world without the Internet, so it is not only important to have wi-fi, but to have good wi-fi, with sufficient signal strength and bandwidth in every corner of campus. It wouldn’t reflect well on a university if a prospective student couldn’t share moments of a campus tour on social media because the network wouldn’t work.

Even after students and their families commit their time (and tuition money) to attending your university, your network can be critical to keeping them there. Convincing more students to stay on campus for four years can be a reliable income source for the university, and decrease the cost per student. This is where addressing quality of student life is particularly important. If the network at campus housing is too weak to support students with laptops, phones, smart hubs, and other connected devices, it may encourage them to look for off-campus housing, especially in suburban campuses where housing is abundant and less expensive than in urban centers.

The Main Event(s)

As prominent members of their communities, colleges and universities frequently host a wide range of events, from public forums to concerts by musicians who draw festival-size crowds. Today, however, we’re going to focus on two types at which having sufficiently high network bandwidth is critical: athletic and political.

At large universities, sporting events are frequently massive community-building event on campus. In fact, 21 of the largest 25 stadiums in the US are home to college football teams or bowl games. After a critical moment, tens of thousands of people will attempt to access the network the share with the world what they just saw, which can cause a massive strain on the network and a wave of frustration throughout the crowd. Outside of the stadium or arena, these games are also a huge part of many alumni’s weekends, who count on multimedia coverage and social media to recapture the experience of being there.

On the political side of the spectrum, hosting a high-profile political debate can be a prestigious win for any college. Despite the high cost of hosting, many mid-size colleges do see substantial return on their investments. For example, Hofstra University saw a 20% increase in applications in the year following their hosting of a 2008 presidential debate, as well as a surge in Google searches the night of the debate. In all, the Chronicle of Higher Education estimates the total exposure that debate hosting brings could add up to $100 million.

High-profile debates offer universities a unique opportunity to showcase the quality of their facilities on a national stage. The network is a critical piece of this presentation, and it must have ample bandwidth to accommodate the surge in media activity. For example, no one would want a reknowned national journalist taking a break from live-tweeting the event to complain about the wi-fi at the debate venue.

Ready to explore how to expand your bandwidth? Check out our higher education homepage, including high-performance solutions, success stories, and additional resources.

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