The economic tailspin of the nation's two largest computer manufacturers hasn't short-circuited Kansas University's computer education programs.
That's because KU's School of Engineering and department of computer science don't have big financial ties with industry giants IBM and Digital Equipment.
"There is not a great impact because we're less dependent on them than other schools," said Nancy Sliker, director of computer facilities in the engineering school.
"They really do not offer that kind of support to us," said Dennis Karpowitz, acting chair of computer science.
IBM is the world's largest computer maker, and Digital is the second largest.
Both companies have been forced by budget woes to slash the amounts of money and equipment they give to U.S. colleges and universities.
At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, administrators fear that IBM's financing of computer science, about $1 million a year for the past 20 years, may dry up.
"Every time they come here, it is like a funeral," said Michael Dertouzos, director of the MIT computer science lab.
In the mid-1980s, when the economy was booming, computer makers were eager to have their latest systems adopted by future engineers, and they donated computer hardware and software to universities by the truckload.
NOW, International Business Machines Corp., based in Armonk, N.Y., and Digital Equipment Corp., based in Maynard, Mass., have been laying off thousands of workers or paying them to retire.
Ken Pearce, coordinator of computer systems in KU's engineering school, said economic fluctuations in the computer industry could harm KU's ability to increase donations.
"As companies get leaner and have to cut back, it may impact our ability to do that in the future," he said.
Sliker said there was a downside to operating KU's engineering school without vast industry donations of computer hardware and software. A special equipment fee had to be imposed on engineering students to finance purchases, she said.
"We instituted an equipment fee because we don't have this kind of industrial support. Without that fee, we would be losing our educational position," she said.
A DECISION by IBM and Digital to reduce the amount allocated to employee match programs to universities would cut contributions to the KU Endowment Association.
"And if donors to the endowment association are part of the reduction in personnel at either company, that would affect the amount we receive," said John Scarffe, director of communications for KUEA.
He said IBM had contributed about $24,000 annually to KUEA's employee gift matching program, which generated more than $1 million in matching funds last fiscal year.
IBM has cut its overall corporate contributions to nonprofit organizations and universities from a high of $189 million in 1985 to $120 million last year.
Digital's corporate contributions to nonprofit organizations and universities was $25 million last year, down from $30 million in 1991.