Accredited Online Colleges That offer Laptops and Other Technology

Today’s college advisors and administrators not only recommend that incoming students use computers and other technology, many demand it. While digital technology is especially significant for students enrolling in online degree programs, many traditional colleges require freshmen to bring a tablet or laptop to class. Recognizing that not all incoming students own computers, online colleges may include a student laptop or iPad as part of their enrollment package.

Today’s college advisors and administrators not only recommend that incoming students use computers and other technology, many demand it. While digital technology is especially significant for students enrolling in online degree programs, many traditional colleges require freshmen to bring a tablet or laptop to class. Recognizing that not all incoming students own computers, online colleges may include a student laptop or iPad as part of their enrollment package.

Technology incentives can include cell phones or other digital gear, but are they free? In some cases the online school includes the discounted cost for laptops as part of a technology fee. Others sell students laptops and tablets at significant discounts through arrangements with the manufacturer. Many schools have discount agreements with major manufacturers like Dell, HP, Google and Apple. Depending on the school, there may be also deeply discounted software as well. Full Sail University, for example, operates Project Lunchbox, a program that sells a 15‑inch MacBook Pro at deep discounts, already loaded with software for the school’s film-editing courses. Rutgers University offers a free iPad customized specifically for the students in its Mini-MBA digital marketing program. Other schools offer computers as “loaners” through graduation day.

Can students keep their laptops and tablets after graduation? That depends on the college. Students keep computers they buy at discount. When a machine is a loaner, students that complete their degrees typically walk away with their computers. If students drop out, they may have to return computers, tablets or phones. Non-completing students may need to pay a pro-rated amount to retire the debt on the computer, although technology depreciation after several years could lower this cost.

Technology for College Success

Computers, tablets, smartphones, note-taking software and Wi-Fi capability are no longer student luxuries, they’re necessities. At Stanford University, for example, students without a laptop or note-taking device are not allowed in certain classes. Tablets are emerging as the gear of choice for many — however, laptops remain the most used technology in the classroom. Devices and software allow students to take extensive notes, make recordings of lectures and capture screen shots of presentations. Optional smart pens record lectures and take hand-written notes, all ready for uploading to the cloud or synching with a home device. Livescribe reports that a Sky 8GB Wi-Fi Smartpen can hold several thousand pages of notes and up to 800 hours of audio recordings.

Other discretionary gear includes laptop or tablet locks that chain the technology to the desk, cooling pads for those who truly work on their laps, MiFi and mobile hotspot devices for those who need Internet access anywhere/anytime, portable hard drives and flash drives. Perhaps the most common, essential software is free, in the form of apps that work across all devices. Consider cloud-based Evernote, a free app that captures notes and transfers them to Android, iOS and Windows devices. Finally, students that appreciate sanity may want to invest in noise-cancelling headphones or earphones.

Smart Shopping for College Tech Gear

Considering the total technology costs of attending college today, an incentive or discounted device starts to look exceptionally attractive. But if students end up buying their own equipment, how do they know which platform to pick? It’s a good idea to find out which hardware and software the students and faculty use in a specific school’s program, whether it’s focused on graphic design, science, business or some other subject.

The following table provides cost guidelines, rather than product endorsements, for some of the tech devices that college-bound students could choose from:

Technology Description PRICE
Laptops and Ultrabooks
Windows Laptop Dell Latitude E7440 Touch $1,949
Windows Ultrabook Acer Aspire $1,450
Apple Laptop Top of the line MacBook Pro with Retina display, OS X $1,999
Apple Laptop Ultra Notebook MacBook Air $800
Chrome OS Samsung Chromebook 2 (Wi-Fi, no hard drive, cloud storage) $351
Readers and Tablets
Apple Tablet iPad Air $499
Android Tablet Samsung Galaxy Note $549
Windows Tablet Dell Venue 11 Pro $499
Amazon Fire OS Amazon Kindle Fire HDX $379
Smartphones
Android Phone Samsung Galaxy S5 $199
Apple Phone Apple iPhone 5s $199
Windows Phone Nokia Lumia 925 $299
Optional Gear
Laptop Lock Cable, combination lock $20-$40
Noise-cancelling headphones Headphones or in-ear buds $25-$550
Smart Pen Livescribe 8GB Sky Wi-Fi Propack $199.50
Laptop-cooling Pad Logitech N315 Portable Lapdesk $19.95
MiFi Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot $19.99, plus monthly service fee
USB Flash Drive Kingston Digital DataTraveler SE9 64GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive $28

Students could be looking at a lofty $3,000 for a high-end computer/phone technology package or, at least, $700 for a tablet/phone combination. If the school offsets or discounts the purchase price on a technology package, so much the better. Other ways to finance technology costs include student loans or grants. College students can also use their current student identification cards to participate in manufacturer-sponsored discount programs.

For those looking for incentives, the listings and descriptions below represent a sample of traditional and online schools that provide laptops and tablets — or discounts on purchases:

Bethel University, an accredited institution, has a campus in Tennessee and offers liberal arts degrees online. The university provides online students with an iPad loaded with applicable programs and a wireless keyboard. Costs are included in the tuition.

The Duke University Global Health Institute provides students with free iPads for field research. The devices are expected to be used worldwide by students, in countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam, as well as at home. The goal is to give students the opportunity to collect more data in areas with limited resources.

Full Sail University has a campus in Florida and operates a fully accredited online university program. The school provides all enrolled students, including online students, with an Apple computer installed with programs necessary for their courses. The computer is not included in tuition, but is provided at an industry discount.

Long Island University provides free iPads to all incoming freshmen, as an incentive for enrollment. The offer also covers new undergraduate transfer students attending full-time. This private university has blended and online programs in addition to campus-based instruction in Brookville, NY, and other locations.

At Oklahoma Christian University, students receive a free MacBook, as well as a choice of a free iPhone or iPod touch upon enrollment. Students can also choose to purchase an iPad at extra cost. The university takes pride in offering students both campus-based and off-campus learning options.

Rutgers University in New Jersey offers a free iPad for students in its Mini-MBA digital marketing program. The iPads are an integral part of the 12-session program, customized with Apple’s help to provide education in a field fueled by technology. Students who already own an iPad can deduct the cost from their tuition.

Stanford University offers a free iPad to its Medical School students, as medicine is becoming digitized at a rapid pace. The iPad offers electronic annotation devices, advanced computer imaging and access to information gleaned from external sites on the Internet.

Stevens-Henager College is an accredited school offering associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees on 12 campuses and online. The college gives every enrolled student – online and traditional – a free laptop with Stevens-Henager software installed. Students who drop out must return their laptops to the college.

The University of Maryland offers free iPads to those students in the Honors College’s Digital Cultures and Creativity living and learning program. The university aims to integrate the technology into the coursework, which has a digital focus. The iPad serves as the basis for content delivery and instruction. Students also have the opportunity to learn to develop their own applications for the iPad.