Online Colleges That Offer Free Laptops And How to Choose – and Find Funding for – the Right Laptop if They Don’t

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Accredited online colleges that give laptops to their students provide added value that makes a big difference, especially to budget-conscious learners. According to a comprehensive 2017 study, today's college students consider computers a vital learning tool. More than 95% of degree-seekers own at least one laptop or smartphone.

Laptops feature a long list of uses in learning, both inside and outside the classroom. In class, learners can use them to record lectures and take notes. Some instructors provide editable versions of their instructional materials, allowing students to add their own ideas and comments. Laptops also deliver essential productivity tools, especially for online learners who must access e-learning platforms and course materials over the internet.

Online Colleges That Offer Free Laptops

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Methodology

Best Online Colleges That Offer Free Laptops

ACO data analysts manually collected technology information to determine whether a college provided:

  • A free laptop
  • A loaner laptop
  • A discounted laptop
  • A phone
  • Software
  • Software training
  • Cloud storage
Data & Technology Information Sources: Eligibility Criteria:
  • Each college must be accredited
  • Each college must be a not-for-profit institution
  • Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
  • Each college must have at least one online program
  • Each college must have a maximum four-year tuition of $25,000 or a maximum two-year tuition of $5,000
  • Each college must provide at least one of the devices or technology services listed above
Ranking Factors:
  • Affordability
  • Quality
  • Flexibility
  • Program

Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition1 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor.

1 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.

Notes:
  • A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
  • Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.
2-Year Schools

What colleges offer free laptops? On a national level, free laptop programs are relatively rare. Most online colleges that offer laptops do so with stipulations. In many cases, students must either return them or buy them from the school. However, the schools listed below maintain generous and innovative policies that offer excellent value.

This list simply presents an alphabetized review of leading online schools that give tablets and laptops to incoming full-time students. All colleges on the list provide laptops for free or at a major discount.

Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services Free Laptop Loaner Laptop Discounted Laptop Phone Software Software Training Cloud Storage University Information
1 Dakota State University Madison, South Dakota $6,984 61% 83% 43% 17 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No No

In 2004, Dakota State University (DSU) in Madison, South Dakota, launched its wireless mobile computing initiative. The program remains active today, providing every new full-time, first-year student with a new laptop. Eligible learners qualify regardless of whether they study on campus or online.

Through the initiative, DSU supplies each student with the latest Fujitsu T-Series model. Every computer includes licensed educational software already installed, and complete warranty protections apply. Degree-seekers also get free replacement batteries. Students can use their laptops to connect to both wireless and wired internet networks at any campus location.

After earning 59 academic credits, learners can discontinue their participation in the program and use their own laptops instead. At this point, students can buy their freely supplied computer for a fair, independently determined price that accounts for depreciation.

School website
2 Independence University Salt Lake City, Utah $18,021 79% 0% 100% 15 Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No No No

Formerly known as California College of Health Sciences, Independence University (IU) calls Salt Lake City home. The school's tablet and laptop for college program provides new students with multiple devices to ensure that they possess all of the necessary tools to participate in tech-driven learning. Of the online colleges that offer laptops, few provide multiple devices. This adds value to IU's policy.

IU divides its schedule into four-week modules. Students receive their tablet during their first module and their laptop in module four. Both products include a multitude of e-learning programs and productivity tools, which combine to deliver all the software students need to complete their programs.

Unlike many other online schools with tablets and laptops, IU also offers degree-seekers a clear path to keeping their devices free of charge. All they must do is complete the degree program in which they originally enrolled.

School website
3 Seton Hill Greensburg, Pennsylvania $35,748 99% 74.6% 59.2% 8 Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No No No

This Greensburg, Pennsylvania-based Catholic liberal arts institute is one of the most unique programs among accredited online colleges that give laptops. Undergraduates enrolled in full-time degrees get a Macbook Air, as do students in select graduate programs. The free Macbook Air offer also extends to those in the master of science in physician assistant, the master of arts in art therapy, and the master of science in orthodontics programs.

Additionally, online students qualify for the school's Apple Care tech support program. Seton Hill's information technology department enjoys full Apple authorization to service Macbook computers, ensuring that all students who qualify for a laptop can receive free, immediate tech support. Degree-seekers whose machines cannot be repaired on the spot can receive a free replacement Macbook Air on loan. Online students must visit campus to have their computer serviced and receive a loaned device.

School website
4 University of Minnesota-Crookston Crookston, Minnesota $10,180 85% 68% 48% 15 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No

The University of Minnesota-Crookston holds the distinction of being the country's first higher education institution to offer free laptops to its students. Learners at this well-regarded school have been receiving laptops since 1993. At the time, the program was so innovative that representatives from more than 100 colleges and universities visited the school to evaluate its results firsthand.

In 2017, the school's new chancellor ordered a review of the laptop program to determine if it continued to meet student needs. The resulting study confirmed the initiative's educational value, ensuring its continued relevance in an increasingly tech-dependent landscape.

Today, the University of Minnesota-Crookston program has been extended to include online students. Eligible learners in full-time programs receive a new Hewlett-Packard Elitebook 1040 G5, which features a 14-inch screen and offers dual functions as a laptop and tablet.

School website
5 Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, North Carolina $53,322 36% 27.6% 87.7% 5 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No

Wake Forest University is one of the best-known online colleges that provides free laptops for its learners. Under the terms of the school's WakeWare program, online and on-campus students receiving institutional aid, including grants and scholarships, automatically become eligible to receive a free Apple or Dell laptop. All other students can purchase an Apple or Dell laptop at special prices that deliver valuable educational discounts.

Every laptop distributed through the WakeWare program includes all of the licensed software needed to complete online or on-campus coursework. Students can also download optional programs and software through the Software@WFU initiative, which includes tools from well-known manufacturers such as Adobe and Microsoft. WakeWare laptops also feature extended warranties, including accidental damage coverage. Degree-seekers can have their laptops fixed on campus and enjoy automatic eligibility for free loaner devices if their computers require extensive repairs.

School website

Choosing the Right Laptop for Your Needs

Beyond any manufacturer or brand preferences, college students should consider several factors when choosing laptops. Technical specifications rank among the most important considerations, especially in terms of random access memory (RAM) and hard drive space. RAM defines the speed at which a computer can process the information it needs to run programs and operations. The more RAM, the faster and more responsive the machine. Hard drive space refers to the amount of room a laptop has for storing digital files. The advent of cloud computing has made it less crucial, but it still counts as a key factor.

Many students also consider weight and battery life as key priorities. Degree-seekers often carry many books and devices, so lightweight computers are ideal. Many classrooms lack readily available plugs, so long battery life also helps.

Finally, consider whether your choice of major affects your technological needs. For instance, media-rich majors such as graphic design, animation, and film will need computers with more storage space and RAM along with advanced dynamic display capabilities.

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Before You Buy

Shopping for a notebook? Consider asking these questions:

  • Do you offer student discounts?

  • Do you offer payment plans?

  • What kind of warranty comes with the laptop?

  • What is the laptop’s processing power?

  • How long is the battery life?

  • Can additional RAM or a larger hard drive be added?

  • What is the screen size and resolution?

  • What software comes installed on the laptop?

  • What kinds of ports does the laptop have?

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Other Resources to Help Pay for Laptops

Top computer and software manufacturers, big-box stores, and resellers offer student discounts on technology. Some companies may require students to join a consumer club. Others may offer free trial programs for software or services. Learners must provide a student ID or an .edu email address when applying for most discount programs.

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