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5 Benefits of Outsourcing Help Desk for Higher Education


Jose Alvarez

Managing Director of Infrastructure Technology

In brief:

  • Insufficient staff resources are the biggest obstacle to providing quality IT support for educational institutions: Gartner
  • Other challenges include rapid deployment of new technologies to support remote learning, use of personal devices, and lack of consolidated IT help portals or ticketing systems.
  • Outsourcing help desk to a provider of IT managed services for education presents an easier, more efficient, and cost-effective approach to ensure quality service and IT support for users.
  • Nearshoring provides an effective solution for universities to overcome the challenge of finding quality help desk staff from expensive labor markets at home.

University help desks are the first point of contact for students, faculty, and employees to communicate with their academic institutions about IT issues. Yet, these have been traditionally challenged with high volumes of requests, the need for wider coverage hours, complex and legacy IT environments, and tight budgets.

This is due to several reasons. The higher education sector is facing an unprecedented array of challenges and threats: enrollment declines, rising cost of living, and increased student debt. This has meant tighter budgets, and fewer new investments. IT budgets in higher education are expected to increase only 2.1% on average in 2024, the Gartner CIO and Technology Executive Survey found.

Tech talent shortages are also pervasive across universities. Insufficient staff resources are, in fact, the biggest obstacle to providing quality IT services for education, with CIOs even having to cancel IT projects because of workforce challenges, Gartner found.

Education provider CIOs are feeling the pressure from IT talent shortages

As a result, stretched help desks are staffed by student employees with no specialized knowledge or training to help resolve technical issues, and who can provide only limited hours of coverage.

Challenges for providing help desk support for universities

Help desk support in the education industry is complicated by the fact that students and faculty often use their own technology and work away from a physical campus, unlike in a traditional business setting where employees mainly work on standardized devices across the organization. This means that college IT help desks must contend with compatibility issues more often, and troubleshoot issues across various operating systems, device types, and configurations.

The rise of virtual learning programs and online classes – particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic – led colleges to rapidly deploy and integrate new digital technologies to facilitate the online student learning experience and digital collaboration, which also made it necessary to ensure reliable access from off-campus locations. All of this has led to an increase in the volume of support requests coming to the help desk as well as the need for availability beyond standard business hours.

College help desks are also often unconsolidated, with multiple portals for resolving issues with learning management systems, student information systems, online library resources, etc. This often leads to callers being bounced around or asked to call different helplines and explain their issue multiple times, resulting in long first response times, even longer resolution times, and frustration.

Consolidated ticketing systems are also largely absent in such setups, meaning tracking types of calls and resolution times for issues is not possible, and there are no means to gather data for analysis and process improvement. 

All the above make help desks inefficient and unable to provide the support students and faculty need for a seamless academic experience.  

Benefits of outsourcing university help desks 

Outsourcing the college help desk function presents an easier, more efficient, and cost-effective approach to providing quality service and IT support for users. Help desk outsourcing overall has grown at a fast clip in the last few years, as more organizations seek cost-effective and reliable solutions to provide a better employee experience. Below are the top five benefits of outsourcing help desk services for universities.

1. Improved, consistent end-user experience for students and employees

An experienced help desk solutions provider brings specialized expertise in various technologies and support methodologies, providing the right solutions and guidance to end users and much-needed support for compatibility issues.

Help desk experts also provide solutions, establish processes, and implement best practices for handling IT support requests, ensuring consistency in responses and escalation of queries as required through a pre-defined escalation matrix.

Outsourcing further allows colleges to access a larger pool of resources, enabling them to scale their support operations based on demand. This flexibility ensures that adequate resources are available to address spikes in support requests, minimizing wait times and enhancing the overall end-user experience.

2. Lower cost of providing quality support

IT is frequently viewed as a cost center for educational institutes and, given the financial pressures they face today, they are expected to continue seeing tighter IT budgets.

Outsourced help desk services are available to suit a range of budgets. Some of these options include tiered support plans with escalating levels of support, shared services consortiums that allow universities to share outsourcing costs, and flexible pricing models which allow clients to pay only for the support services they use. This eliminates the need for large upfront investments and allows institutions to scale their support costs based on demand.

Providers based out of top nearshoring destinations such as Costa Rica and Colombia provide quality tech talent with significant labor arbitrage compared to the U.S. Both countries possess deep, highly educated IT talent pools, with government support and business i