Online college is nearly impossible without a computer. To take classes, do homework, and communicate with professors, you'll need a reliable internet connection and a device that connects to it.
For that 10% of students who don't have a laptop, there are colleges that can help. Many schools with online degree programs offer technology assistance to students — and that often includes free or discounted laptops.
Did You Know?
In a 2018 study, 94% of college students considered their laptops essential to their academic success. 10% of college students don't have access to a laptop — that's nearly 2 million students! About 16-19% of college students report facing technology barriers that limit their ability to participate in online learning.
How to Get a Free Laptop for College
Many accredited online colleges offer free laptops and other perks like technology discounts, IT help, and free or discounted software. These perks may apply to all enrolled students or only those who meet certain eligibility requirements, depending on the school.
Some colleges offer free laptops through partnerships with stores and companies, while others may roll computer costs into student fees.
Additionally, some schools may require you to enroll full time to qualify for a free or discounted laptop, whereas others may only provide free laptops to incoming students.
Laptop ownership usually transfers to you permanently once you graduate or earn a certain number of credits. If you decide to withdraw from the school, you may need to return or buy the laptop you received from the institution.
If you don't qualify for a free laptop from your school, you can still try to save on laptop expenses. For example, you might use your tax refund or your financial aid package to buy an inexpensive laptop for college.
Alternatively, you could look into borrowing a laptop from friends or family or see if you qualify for a free laptop for college from one of the nonprofits listed below.
Organizations That Donate Recycled Laptops to Students
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40 Online Colleges That Offer Free Laptops, Discounted Laptops, and Other Tech Perks
Many accredited colleges and universities offer technology services for online students. These services can include downloadable academic software and a virtual IT helpdesk. Certain majors may also receive special devices and software.
Eligibility criteria and program rules vary by school. Make sure to review your college's technology policies and programs.
Explore the table below to learn more about accredited online colleges with free laptops, discounted laptops, and other technology perks for students.
How Do Student Technology Policies Work at Online Colleges?
Technology is essential for online college, as most programs require a strong internet connection and a computer. If you plan to take advantage of a free laptop program, there are a few policies you'll need to be familiar with.
Getting a Laptop
Some accredited online schools mail technology packages before classes begin. These packages typically contain laptops and software. In-person programs may provide free college laptops when you arrive on campus.
Some institutions even transfer permanent laptop ownership to students once they earn a certain number of credits.
College tech perk programs may require you to claim your laptop your first semester or year to qualify.
Software and Hardware Updates
Many accredited schools with laptop loaner programs don't allow you to download media on the borrowed laptop. You also usually can't upgrade the hardware or software.
College tech perk programs often include information technology assistance with upgrades.
Damages and Theft
Many college tech perk programs include warranties or insurance for school-provided devices. These protections provide IT assistance with hardware or software malfunctions.
While online college tech perks sometimes include damage and theft protection, many schools require students who lose or break their devices to pay for them.
Some accredited online colleges only provide technology packages to first-year students. Transfer students may qualify for free college laptop programs, but not always.
Often, you must earn a certain number of credits or graduate before you officially own your school-issued device. Some college tech perk programs only require students to complete 1-4 semesters before they own their laptop.
What Are the Best Laptops for College?
The best laptops for college have updated software capabilities, have an embedded webcam and microphone, and are student-budget friendly. Speaking of which, don't forget to take advantage of student discounts!
Here are four of the best college laptops for online students.
|Model||Apple MacBook Air M1||Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2||ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5||HP Envy 13|
|Standard Features||Lightweight, long battery life||Portable, touchscreen||Chrome OS, tablet configuration||Touchpad, fingerprint reader|
|Weight||2.8 lbs||2.48 lbs||4.17 lbs||2.9 lbs|
|Storage||256 GB or 512 GB||256 GB||128 GB||256 GB|
|Display||13.3 inches||12.4 inches||15.6 inches||13.3 inches|
|Battery Life||18 hours||13.5 hours||11 hours||11 hours|
|Ports||2x Thunderbolt 3, audio||1 USB-C, 1 USB-A, audio||1 USB-A, 2 USB-C, 1 HDMI, audio||1 Thunderbolt 4, 1 USB Type-A, audio|
*Accurate as of Oct. 2022. Prices may fluctuate.
Frequently Asked Questions About Free Laptops for College
Why do I need a laptop for online school?
A laptop is essential for online college. You'll need to be able to send and receive emails, conduct online research, complete homework, and attend your classes, all through a computer.
A desktop computer can be a suitable alternative, but it won't afford you the same mobility and savings a laptop will.
What should I consider when choosing a laptop for college?
There are many features to consider when choosing a laptop for online school. First, make sure the computer's operating system is compatible with any software or programs you'll be using for your online program.
We also recommend considering features like battery life, ports, and webcam and microphone support. What's more, try to choose a laptop that suits your budget.
What is the best computer for college?
Some top-rated laptops to consider getting for college include the Macbook Air, the Microsoft Surface Laptop, the ASUS Chromebook, and the HP Envy.
That said, there's no single perfect computer for college. Each student will have different preferences and requirements. The best computer for you is one that matches your budget and meets your educational needs while functioning reliably.
Can you buy a laptop with scholarship money or financial aid?
Unless a financial aid source specifically notes it can only be used for tuition, you can likely pay for other school-related expenses with scholarship money, grants, and loans. That includes buying a computer or laptop.
You can also seek out scholarships or technology grants specifically for students who need laptops.
Does the FAFSA include laptops for college?
If you receive federal student aid through the FAFSA, you can use those funds to buy a laptop. FAFSA aid can also be used toward room and board, transportation costs, and textbooks. Most student-related expenses can be paid for with federal funds.