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State university system officials want more funds for IT and cybersecurity

State university system officials are discussing plans to bolster information technology staff and are aiming to beef up schools’ cybersecurity.

The system currently has about 25 percent of IT positions vacant, top officials of the state Board of Governors said during a meeting Friday.

While discussing upcoming funding requests to the Florida Legislature, state university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues pointed to challenges filling IT positions and said schools have been plugging gaps by contracting for services.

“We’ve had difficulty with hiring IT. We’ve had positions that the Legislature has given us that we’ve been recruiting for and we’ve struggled to fill,” Rodrigues said.

Officials plan to request about $1 million for the next fiscal year to continue to hire contracted services in IT, while they eye potential solutions to the staffing woes.

Board of Governors Vice-Chairman Eric Silagy said the 25 percent vacancy rate is “not sustainable” and floated the idea of addressing the shortage with students who are being trained in IT.

“Seems to me, if we’re training students in IT in our university system, maybe there’s a way for us to put together a program … working with the state, where we provide students with the education and they turn around and dedicate X number of years to working within the state IT system,” Silagy said.

Rodrigues also raised the possibility of requesting money for a potential “systemwide cybersecurity effort,” although he didn’t offer a specific proposal Friday.

“What we’re seeing nationally is, educational institutions are becoming more prevalent targets for cybersecurity attacks,” Rodrigues said.

Silagy and other officials agreed that cybersecurity is a serious concern for Florida’s universities.

“The university system is a multi-billion dollar business. And you’ve got 440,000-plus customers in the way of students. You’ve got over 100,000 employees. And so, there is a tremendous amount of sensitive data that is embedded in our system, whether it be personal data or whether it be research. Whatever the case is, universities are ripe for this type of attack," Silagy said.

The News Service of Florida is a wire service to which WUFT News subscribes.