Online Colleges That Offer Laptops

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There is no denying that a laptop is invaluable for college. A desktop computer may not be enough because today’s education often involves creating and doing presentations from a laptop, for at least some classes. Students find laptops handy for note-taking and communicating with other students and faculty while on campus, but busy adults enrolled in online college programs also benefit from having a laptop. They can listen to lectures, participate in class discussions and do schoolwork wherever and whenever they catch a break between work and family responsibilities.

Many careers that college graduates expect to pursue make extensive use of laptops and tablets, such as health care, education and business. The global economy depends on technological competency. Students who become comfortable with this basic piece of technology are preparing for the world beyond graduation. That’s why some colleges require their students to have gear for mobile computing, and others highly encourage it.

An increasing number of schools have programs in place to help students shoulder the additional expense of acquiring a laptop and the software necessary for the program of study in which they are enrolled. The cost of a laptop loaded with the appropriate software for the specific course of study can usually run between $800 and $3,000. Some college “laptop programs” provide laptops or tablets for free or on loan until graduation. Others offer discounts for the purchase of certain brands.

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Colleges with Laptop Programs for Students

College programs that offer free laptops to students may require that they fulfill certain conditions such as maintaining a certain grade point average, while laptop ownership at some schools is contingent upon graduation. Other schools tack on a technology fee for “free” laptops and tablets. It is a good idea to check with the schools to find out about any stipulations or additional costs.

Some colleges offer special laptop pricing from one or several vendors to encourage use of this important piece of technology. Enrollment is usually a prerequisite to access pricing information, and costs may not be available during the decision process.

The following list summarizes 20 popular college laptop initiatives for online and campus programs:

Stevens-Henager College - A laptop is issued to every freshman enrolled in one of the college’s online hybrid programs with the stipulation it must be returned within 30 days if the student leaves without graduating. Laptops become the property of the students only if they graduate.

Bethel University - All students receive Google Chromebook laptops at the beginning of their programs as part of the school’s technology initiative. Once they complete 30 percent of their coursework, the laptops are theirs to keep. According to a customer service representative for the school, it has a very high completion rate, and very few laptops need to be returned to the school.

Wake Forest University - All students receive Google Chromebook laptops at the beginning of their programs as part of the school’s technology initiative. Once they complete 30 percent of their coursework, the laptops are theirs to keep. According to a customer service representative for the school, it has a very high completion rate, and very few laptops need to be returned to the school.

CollegeAmerica - Freshmen are issued laptops on loan from the school. When they graduate, they can keep their laptops permanently as a gift.

Ursinus College - Since 2000, the Ursinus College Laptop Initiative has distributed laptops to all students and faculty, and upgrades at least once prior to students’ graduation. The laptop program encourages ease of communication among all students and faculty and helps to promote an improved level of e-skills.

ASU Online - Students can purchase computer and laptop bundles through special arrangements with Dell and Apple.

Full Sail - Incoming students enrolled in filmmaking, sound engineering and gaming technology can purchase at discount a 15-inch MacBook loaded with Final Cut Pro X software.

Berklee College of Music - The school requires incoming freshmen to purchase a Mac laptop and software deemed appropriate by the standards set by Berklee’s technology and academic leadership. Students receive special volume pricing.

Gordon College - Gordon does not provide a laptop but recommends that students purchase either the latest Lenovo ThinkPad or Apple MacBook Pro with the appropriate software available to them at special bundle pricing. Technical support, maintenance and loaner laptops are available from the school at no additional cost for those who purchase through the program.

Merrimack College - Similar to Gordon College’s program, Merrimack offers special pricing for its optional laptop program, which as of May 2014 was $1,199 for the Lenovo ThinkPad or $1,619 for the MacBook Pro. Maintenance, accidents and loaners are fully covered by Merrimack College. The laptops have a 3-year warranty.

Springfield College - Springfield College has an Opt-in Purchase Program for an iPad or iPad Mini with retina display. Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro and Dell Latitude 14 5000 Series laptops are available for purchase through the college website.

Siena College - A purchase program for student laptops is available by arrangement with Dell for special pricing through the school’s website only. Apple laptops and tablets can be purchased through the Apple Store for Education. Microsoft Office 360 University is available for the Dell laptop at $79.99.

Long Island University, CW Post - LIU at CW Post provides a free iPad to full-time, newly registered students who fulfill all admissions requirements, are in good-standing with the bursar’s office and complete a 12-month term.

University of Phoenix - Apple, Dell, HP and Microsoft products are discounted for students, but access to pricing is only available after enrollment.

St. John’s University - A laptop is included in the cost of tuition for every full-time enrolled student for the duration of the program. Fall 2014 choices include the touchscreen Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, which can be used as a tablet, the Lenovo ThinkPad 440p and the Apple MacBook Pro with retina display. There is a non-refundable surcharge of $400 for the MacBook. Maintenance is included for all university-issued laptops.

Northwest Missouri State University - Included in tuition along with textbook rental, full-time incoming freshmen receive a fully loaded HP Ultrabook laptop for use while at NMSU. The university estimates that the combined rental of textbooks and laptop saves each student more than $7,000 over four years.

Liberty University Online - Enrolled students are eligible to purchase laptops for as little as $299 for a Dell Inspiron, $479 for a Lenovo IdeaPad and $1,099 for a MacBook Pro.

Regis College - To facilitate efficient communication among full-time students and faculty, the university provides free iPads, on loan to the school from Apple. They are upgraded every two years and given to the students when they graduate.

Seton Hill University - Seton Hill is a campus-based school that provides an iPad, upgraded after two years, and a 13-inch MacBook Air to each full-time student. Students and faculty make full use of mobile interactive education both in and out of the classroom.

Rochester College - New full-time, traditional undergraduate students with 30 or less transfer credits receive a free MacBook Pro or iPad.

Other Ways for Students to Get Laptops for School

For a student whose college or school does not supply laptops, all is not lost. Many of the major brands featured in the laptop initiatives listed above are also available at a discount to students through the brand websites:

Notebooks for Students (NSF) is a nonprofit organization created by students for students in 1998. Since then they have been providing students with dependable, powerful laptops at affordable prices, including free service shipping and free warranty.

Choosing the Right Laptop

There are so many laptops to consider for students who are buying their own or have more than one choice offered from their institution. Often a faculty member in the department of the student’s major course of study may be a good source of advice. Students need to research the most likely uses for their tech equipment, e.g. for video streaming lectures or for assignments with heavy number-crunching. Online laptop buying guides offer comparisons of everything from price to the latest desirable features, but these may or may not be relevant to an individual student’s needs.

In general, students of graphic arts, music, film-making and other creative disciplines historically have preferred Apple products. Running Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and other editing software and designing multimedia presentations typically require more computing power than note-taking, researching online and composing term papers. Studies at some schools, however, are crossing subject boundaries to encourage learning–and applying that learning beyond school–as an interdisciplinary experience.

The following factors may also be of importance to students who are buying their own laptops:

Familiarity with the operating system

  • Screen size
  • Speed
  • Battery life
  • Weight/portability
  • Price vs. power
  • Gaming capabilities

When it comes down to choosing a laptop vs. tablet, the question might be whether or not to have both. Tablets have come a long way in the last couple of years, and some may be a worthy alternative to a laptop, assuming the student has access to a good desktop for certain types of productivity.

As technology continues to evolve at its usual break-neck speed, more institutions of higher learning may include either laptops or tablets–or both–as part of their technology initiatives. As they compete for dedicated students, such offers, contingent up on degree completion, may be a powerful incentive if they can save students another substantial college expense.


Product Technology PC Mag score Price Screen Size Weight RAM
MacBook Pro with Retina display Apple Laptop $1,999 15.4 inches 4.46 lb 8 GB
MacBook Air Apple Laptop Ultra Notebook $1,099 13.3 inches 2.91 lb 8 GB
Acer Aspire Windows Ultrabook $1,450 13.3 inches 2.87 lb 8 GB
Dell Latitude E7440 Touch Windows Laptop $1,949 14 inches 3.85 lb 8 GB
Dell Chromebook 11 Chrome OS $ 299 11.6 inches 2.84 lb 8 GB
Lenovo G580 Windows Laptop $479 115.6 inches 5.09 lb 4 GB
Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Windows Laptop $1,495 12.5 inches 3.2 lb 8 GB
Lenovo G580MSI GS70 Stealth Windows Laptop $1,999 17.3 inches 5.8 lb 16 GB

Product Technology PC Mag score Price Dimensions Weight RAM
iPad Air Apple Tablet $499 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches 16.86 oz 1 GB
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX Amazon Fire OS $379 9.1 x 6.2 x 0.31 inches 13.5 oz 2 GB
Lenovo Mix Windows Tablet $299 8.5 x 5.25 x 0.3 inches 0.75 lb 2 GB
Dell Venue 11 Pro Windows Tablet $499 11 x 7 x 0.4 inches 1.65 lb 2 GB
Samsung Galaxy Note Android Tablet $549 9.57 x 6.75 x 0.31 inches 19.75 oz 3 GB


Product Technology PC Mag score Price Dimensions Weight Total Storage
Apple iPhone 5s Apple Phone $649 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 3.95 oz 16 GB
Samsung Galaxy S5 Android Phone $660 5.6 x 2.85 x .3 5.1 oz 16 GB
Nokia Lumia 925 Windows Phone $529 5.01 x 2.77 x 0.33 4.9 oz 29 GB