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The Higher Education Equipment Trust Fund (ETF) was established by the General Assembly in 1986 to meet a need for new or updated equipment for various educational and general programs in Virginia institutions of higher education. The State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV) and the Virginia College Building Authority (VCBA) administer the ETF Program.
SCHEV is the primary interface with Mason in the spending and reimbursement of ETF funds. As a recipient of these funds, Mason is obligated to meet certain legal requirements associated with their use. Information Technology Services (ITS) Finance and Fiscal Services coordinate all ETF-related activity for the university. Equipment purchased with Trust Fund monies is not owned by the University, but is tied to leasing agreements with VCBA. Ownership passes to George Mason University once a leasing agreement has been satisfied for a particular allocation. In addition to general rules applicable to all equipment, specific guidelines apply to the acquisition, maintenance, and disposal of ETF equipment.
The following are the goals of ETF as outlined by the SCHEV:
- Significantly reduce the amount of obsolete technology and equipment.
- Provide every student access to an appropriate level of information and technology.
- Establish a statewide network that supports and encourages sharing and cooperation.
- Provide every faculty member with appropriate equipment and training to use technology in support of teaching and learning.
- Support faculty in the introduction of new ways of instruction and learning, provide courses customized to student needs, and take advantage of distance-learning opportunities.
- Install high quality, easy access, network-deliverable student support services, such as transcripts, grades, class scheduling, and account balance and payment information.
- Install management information systems that are flexible and directly accessible to users to help support administrative restructuring and cost-containment.
There are specific restrictions that pertain to equipment purchased under ETF that must be met. To qualify, purchased equipment must meet all of the following requirements:
- The equipment must have a unit cost of $500 or more, or must be a functional unit where the aggregate cost of individual components is $500 or greater. George Mason University requires the purchase of equipment items (less computers and printers) with a minimum cost of at least $1,000.
- The equipment must have a useful life of five or more years (three or more years for computers, laptops, and printers).
- The equipment must be maintained in good working condition by the department (any repairs must be made with department funds) and must be physically located in accordance with fixed asset records.
- The equipment must be used within the Commonwealth of Virginia, unless specifically authorized for use elsewhere by SCHEV.
Additionally, ETF equipment may not be surplused, cannibalized, traded-in, or disposed without prior approval. Stolen, damaged or lost ETF equipment must be promptly reported. ETF owned equipment is subject to periodic on-site audits by SCHEV to verify the equipment’s condition, location, and use.
Upgrades (not maintenance or general upkeep of equipment) may be permissible using ETF funds for non-ETF equipment. The upgrade and equipment to be upgraded must meet the ETF requirements. The circumstances of the upgrade will be subject to review by SCHEV and may require the entire piece of equipment to be tagged as ETF equipment.
To be eligible ETF funding at Mason, individual equipment items must cost $1,000 or more, except when the for item is part of a functional unit. A functional unit is defined as an assemblage of ETF instruments, modules and components that collectively perform a specific task and remain assembled as a unit. In the case of items that comprise a functional unit, the individual components may cost less than $500, but the aggregate cost of the functional unit must be $1,000 or more. Examples of functional units include (1) a computer, keyboard, monitor, printer and operating software, (2) oscilloscope with probes and (3) recording spectrophotometer with demountable cell assembly and windows. Items merely aggregated together so the group costs more than $1,000 are not a functional unit. ETF stipulations provide that ETF tagged equipment must maintain its original integrity as a functional unit. Components of ETF functional units must not be interchanged with other units.
The state will no longer allow the purchase of additional warranty beyond the first year with ETF dollars. However, the state requires that ETF equipment remain functional for 5 years. Effective with the release of the FY2011 ETF funds, computers, laptops, and printers are now on a 3 year life cycle. ITS encourages units to obtain a warranty for up to 4 years beyond the standard 1 year. Departmental units have agreed to take responsibility for the purchase of life cycle maintenance from funds outside of the ETF allocation.
- Newly Created Faculty/Staff positions (NFS)
The NFS program provides a new computer for a new position when it is first created and hired. Note that NFS is not intended for a new hire, rather a new position. ETF may fund the initial computer when a position number is first created (subject to available inventory). After that, the system is refreshed/replaced in the regular OBS cycle below.
- Replacement of Obsolete Computers (OBS)
The OBS program was established to provide lifecycle replacement for primary computers used by Mason employees. Obsolescence is defined as a computer that is 5 years or older, or as a computer that no longer meets the specialized needs of a user. OBS strives to replace an employee’s primary computer. Secondary computers, shared computers used for travel, or computers in labs are not eligible for replacement with OBS funds.