I've been meaning to provide an update on Unizin now that the consortium is three years old (started officially in July 2014). Thanks to public documents from the University of Minnesota, one of the 11 founding members, we now have additional clarity on the ongoing costs to remain a member of Unizin.
For some background, Colorado State University staff back in April 2014 described the $1,050,000 initial fee in their meeting minutes for the University Technology Fee Advisory Board:
3. Will this decrease overall costs on our end through collaboration?
a. We are investing $1 million up front, but there is about a 7-year payback. We are investing in a $10 million product since the other 9 universities are putting their money in as we are too. This will absolutely decrease our costs.
One year later, when the Florida State University System joined Unizin as associate members, we noted this item from the University of Florida / Unizin Consortium Membership Agreement:
We noted at e-Literate in our article from 2015:
Does this mean that founding institutions that "invested" $1.050 million over three years will have to start paying annual fees of $100,000 starting in June 2017? That's my assumption, but I'm checking to see what this clause means and will share at e-Literate.
Update (7/17): I talked to Amin Qazi today (CEO of Unizin) who let me know that the annual membership fee for institutional members (currently the 11 schools paying $1.050 million) has not be determined yet.
Fast forward to 2017 and we have an answer. The University of Minnesota has to submit purchases over $1 million to its board of regents for consent, and at the July 2017 meeting the new Unizin membership fees were presented:
To Unizin, Ltd. for $1,282,500 for a three-year renewal of membership in the higher education consortium for the Office of Information Technology (OIT) for the period July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2020. The annual payment of membership fees will be covered from OIT’s central O&M funds. The FY18 budget includes planning and funding for this expense.
That equals $427,500 per year for the next three years for the 70,000+ enrollment university. What this now makes clear is that the up-front investment in Unizin was not a one-time fee broken up into three easy payments. Unizin member has an ongoing annual fee set in three-year periods.
I again asked Amin Qazi for clarification, including whether all Unizin members were now paying the higher fee ($427.5k vs. $350k for initial three years). Amin confirmed via email:
Unizin is a non-profit organization and seeks to cover its costs. We have found that our cost to provide our services and tools somewhat scale with the size of the institution. The Unizin Founding Member Fees have been adjusted after the initial three year period. So while larger institutions do pay more, smaller institutions pay less. We anticipate further adjustments as we grow and are able to recognize even greater economies of scale.
I would then assume that the University of Minnesota, along with University of Michigan and Penn State University, are paying at the highest level and more than $350k, and that smaller schools like the University of Iowa and the University of Nebraska are paying less than $350k.
The same University of Minnesota document also describes their costs for the Canvas1 LMS based on the Unizin agreement.
To Unizin, Ltd. for $5,023,000 for a purchase of Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) for the Office of Information Technology (OIT) for the period July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2022. [snip]
Unizen [sic], on behalf of its member institutions, conducted a competitive Request for Proposal followed by a detailed evaluation process. Through this process Canvas by Instructure was selected as a Learning Management System (LMS). The University then conducted a two year pilot of Canvas and a majority of the stakeholders preferred Canvas to the University's current LMS, Moodle. Most of the Big Ten schools have adopted or are adopting Canvas.
The University receives an additional 30% discount by purchasing Canvas through Unizen [sic] rather than purchasing directly through Infrastructure [sic] and 3% caps on annual increases, rather than 5%, has been negotiated.
This five-year deal comes out to $12 - $14 per student per year. The document does not specify what level of support they have chosen, although they describe a "dedicated test server".
New Associate Members
In other news, Unizin announced in July that the University of Nebraska system has joined as associate members.
The Unizin Consortium is thrilled to welcome the full University of Nebraska system, bringing the total number of institutions in the consortium to 25. With the addition, the University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska at Omaha, and University of Nebraska Medical Center join Unizin Founding Member the University of Nebraska Lincoln.
Note that associate members do not pay the same amount as full members. In Florida, the State University System deal costs each associate member $100k per year.
We'll likely give updates at e-Literate after the EDUCAUSE conference on how Unizin has evolved in terms of services and potential new members. But for now we at least have more clarity on the financial terms of the consortium.
By Phil Hill
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