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Some online colleges that offer reduced tuition rates for students also recognize the financial burden that can come with purchasing a laptop or tablet. Distance programs help make college more affordable and accessible for millions of students, but if you do not have regular and dependable access to a computer, the appeal of these programs disappears. In response, some schools offer ways to help students obtain one of these important devices, such as by giving laptops away or leasing devices to enrolled students.

Below, you can find helpful information about what kinds of devices you should consider purchasing, how to afford a device, and how to find online colleges that offer free or discounted laptops.

Online Colleges That Offer Laptops and iPads

School Location Description Toggle

Amridge University

The Amridge University Laptop Program allows every student to purchase a laptop computer at a discounted rate. During the 2018-19 year, each student paid a flat fee of $375 per device. Though the university does not service the laptops directly, a three-year extended warranty covers all parts and services. Amridge University students may choose from multiple models: for example, the 2018-2019 lineup included Lenovo, HP, and Microsoft laptops.

All devices are preloaded with software, including the Canvas learning management system and Microsoft Office 365. Students who pay for their laptop using financial aid must enroll full time. The university ships all laptops to the student's home address prior to the start of the academic year.

Bethel University

Bethel issues Chromebooks to incoming freshmen prior to their first day of class. Each laptop comes preloaded with antivirus software and the Google Chrome operating system, which stores all documents and applications in a cloud-based platform for easy retrieval. Each student receives their Chromebook in the mail or at their new student orientation.

Those who do not claim their Chromebook during their first semester will be ineligible to do so later. Because Bethel technically owns the laptops, students may not share movies, music, or games through the campus network. Bethel recommends each student insure their device for no less than $600 to protect against repairs, replacements, and theft.

Chatham University

As part of Chatham's MacBook laptop program, all new freshman receive a MacBook Air during their first-year orientation. All online courses at Chatham incorporate the laptop into the curriculum, and students can access the university's network at WiFi hotspots located across campus. In addition, freshman receive a complimentary carrying case and four years of warranty coverage, damage protection, and theft protection.

Technology fees cover the costs of the laptop and on-campus IT services while students are still enrolled. Chatham transfers ownership of the laptop to each successful graduate. Graduate students at Chatham do not receive laptops, but the university offers financial aid options for purchasing and maintaining a device if needed for graduate-level coursework.

Coppin State University

Launched in 2001, the Student Laptop Initiative at Coppin State enables any current undergraduate to lease a laptop computer during the semester (fees vary by available model and may change annually). After four consecutive semesters, students may purchase the device by paying a charge. Coppin State offers grants for students who cannot afford to lease the laptop for four semesters, and loaner computers are available in the event of a malfunction. Any student with a valid ID can rent a loaner at no extra charge.

Full Sail University

As part of Full Sail University's Project Launchbox Initiative, most incoming freshman may purchase a current-generation MacBook Pro laptop at an institutional discount. Those pursuing degrees in game development, software development, or simulation and visualization receive a Hewlett-Packard laptop instead.

Additionally, students qualify for supplemental hardware and software components based on their major field. For example, laptops for sports management majors are equipped with a microphone and audio mixer for producing sports media and journalism, while music production majors receive a computer with Pro Tools, Logic, and other mixing software. Full Sail offers a merit-based scholarship that covers laptop costs. Students can keep the laptop after graduation if they choose.

Illinois Institute of Technology

Since 2010, IIT has provided iPad tablets to all first-year, incoming freshmen as part of the IIT Mobile Computing Initiative. Each device is compatible with e-books, Blackboard, and iTunes University software. Other built-in features include a university app with news, events, and course listings as well as an emergency alert function that connects students with campus police and medical services.

The university also hosts on-campus iPad workshops where students and faculty members can learn how to use the device and integrate it into coursework. Also available for students is an iPad lab where they can take a tablet out on loan in case their own needs repairs.

Indiana State University

ISU's Sycamore Technology Award covers the cost of a new laptop chosen by the university and is open to incoming students also eligible to receive need-based Pell Grants. Most recently, the school distributed the HP ProBook 640 to award recipients. In- and out-of-state students may apply, but solely online, international, and returning students do not qualify. Recipients may keep their laptop as long as they attend the university for at least two consecutive semesters. Those who leave before the end of the second semester must return their laptop either in person or via mail.

Maryville University

Maryville's Digital World Program awards a new iPad tablet to each traditional, full-time undergraduate at no extra charge. The cost of the iPad is not built into tuition rates, and students can keep the device if they graduate from Maryville. The devices come preloaded with software and apps that allow students to load e-books, notes, and other course materials. Each student must bring their iPad to class every day, as most faculty members incorporate tablet learning into their courses. According to a Maryville faculty survey, students use the iPad primarily for group projects and course presentations.

Northwest Missouri State University

Northwest offers a laptop computer to all incoming undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of enrollment status or whether they take courses online or on campus. Northwest owns the devices and leases them to students on a temporary basis. All students pick up their laptop at the Northwest Technology Service Center and may return their computer in person or through the mail.

The school does not provide laptop insurance beyond the device's standard manufacturing warranty, and it encourages students to purchase insurance to protect against damages and theft. Students should also back up their files on a weekly basis in case of software or hardware failures.

Ohio State University

OSU offers technology kits to incoming freshmen and transfer students as well as returning students enrolled at the university. Each kit includes a 10.5" iPad, protective case, smart keyboard, Apple Pencil, and a one-year warranty. The warranty only covers the tablet, and there is a damage replacement fee. All students attending courses at OSU campuses receive the technology kit either at orientation or through the mail, depending on which campus they attend. Those who wish to opt out of the program may receive a financial credit for the device depending on when they return the iPad.

Princeton University

Princeton provides laptops to students at a discounted rate as part of the school's Student Computer Initiative (SCI). Students can pick up their device from the on-campus SCI store at any point during the academic year. Princeton offers a rotating selection of laptops for students. For example, during the 2018-2019 year, available models included the MacBook Air 13", MacBook Pro 13", MacBook Pro 15" Retina Display, Dell XPS 13, and Dell Latitude 3490.

Prices and specifications vary by model, and rates generally change each year. Upgrades, accessories, and changes to SCI laptops are not allowed. Each SCI laptop comes preconfigured with software programs and includes three years of warranty coverage. Students must return the laptop when they graduate or leave school.

Rochester College

Rochester provides free laptops to incoming freshmen who enroll full time and who possess fewer than 30 institutional or transfer credits. Students may use the laptop for coursework and keep it after graduation per their contract agreement with the college. However, the school places a laptop hold on students who have not completed at least six consecutive fall and spring semesters.

Those who leave Rochester before reaching this benchmark or downgrade to part-time enrollment must pay for the laptop in full. Additionally, students with laptop holds who request transcripts must pay for the laptop in full before they may receive their transcripts.

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo offers a laptop rental program for traditional full- or part-time students earning an undergraduate degree. Students pay a deposit fee for computers that come preloaded with Microsoft Office 365 and other software programs in order to meet the university's technology compliance standards. Laptop rentals are available on a first-come basis, but Saint Leo students can also borrow laptops from the university's library, provided the device does not leave the building.

Seton Hill University

Since 2010, Seton Hill has provided laptops and tablets to students as part of the Mobile Learning at The Hill program. All traditional, full-time undergraduate students, as well as those earning a master's with a physician assistant focus, receive both a 13" MacBook Air and the current generation iPad. Master's in art therapy students receive the MacBook only, while master's in orthodontics or master's in marriage and family therapy students receive the iPad only.

Seton Hill replaces all devices after students have attended school for two consecutive years, and graduates may keep the replacement device after leaving school. Seton Hill also offers on-campus tech support where students can pick up loaner devices if their laptop or tablet needs repairs.

St. John's University

St. John's offers different laptops to students based on their field of study. Those earning degrees in mass communications, fine arts, or liberal arts are advised to select the Apple MacBook Pro, which carries a usage fee of $190 per semester. Students earning degrees in business are advised to choose a Windows Lenovo ThinkPad laptop with a usage fee of $115 per semester or a Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 2-in-1 laptop and tablet that costs $145 per semester. Costs and devices may vary year to year.

All issued laptops qualify for four years of warranty coverage including accidental damage protection. Students who graduate or leave the school for other reasons must return the laptops to one of the university's on-campus IT support centers. Those who keep their laptop must pay a flat charge of $800.

University of Minnesota Crookston

UMC has provided students with laptop computers since 1993, making it one of the first institutions to do so. This offer extends to all full-time students attending the university. Students must pay two technology fees — one per semester during their first academic year. This fee covers the laptop cost along with on-campus tech support and services. Those who successfully graduate from UMC may keep their laptop. The school refreshes the inventory every two years to ensure high-quality laptops are issued. The current model is the HP EliteBook 1040 G3 Notebook PC.

University of North Carolina at Pembroke

UNCP provides laptops to high-achieving students as part of the school's Honors Scholar Laptop Initiative. New and returning honors students may apply for devices on an annual basis, and the program contract requires students to return all laptops and associated hardware to the university at the end of each academic year.

UNCP retains ownership of the laptop after a recipient graduates or withdraws from courses, and students are responsible for costs associated with laptop damages or theft. The university issues laptops on a first-come basis, which may limit availability, so students should submit their annual applications as soon as possible. Laptop rentals for summer sessions require a separate contract.

Valley City State University

VCSU issues laptops to full- and part-time students as part of the school's laptop initiative. Online and traditional undergraduate and graduate students may apply. Full-time students can choose between a 13" MacBook Air or a 14" HP EliteBook 840 G4, while part-time students may select one of these laptops or a previously issued model, such as the 13.3" MacBook Pro or 12.5" Lenovo ThinkPad Twist.

VCSU recommends the MacBook option for students in art, education, and music programs; it recommends the HP device for business, STEM, and social science majors. The cost of the laptop is built into each student's tuition rates, and all students must pay a damage deductible along with a fee if they lose the device. Graduates can purchase their laptop after leaving school.

Wake Forest University

Wake Forest requires all students to own a laptop that meets minimum requirements for the school's academic software programs. To help undergraduate and graduate students reduce associated costs, the university launched the WakeWare program, which allows students to purchase an Apple or Dell laptop at an institutional discount and includes extended insurance and warranty coverage for liquid damage, theft, and other incidentals.

Wake Forest also provides the Technology Grant to students who receive scholarship aid; this grant covers the costs of the laptop and insurance along with local taxes. Incoming Wake Forest students can have the laptop shipped to their home address or pick up the device when they arrive on campus.

Wentworth Institute of Technology

Wentworth offers a new laptop computer to every student enrolled full time. Laptop models vary by the student's academic major, as certain programs offer multiple model and specification options. If options are available, students must complete and submit a laptop survey form prior to their next fall enrollment. Otherwise, they incur a laptop change fee.

The cost of the laptop is built into the student's tuition rates, and no additional charges apply unless the laptop is damaged, lost, or stolen. The school transfers ownership of the laptop to students after graduation, but some software programs must be uninstalled due to certain licensing agreements.

Is an iPad or Laptop Better for College?

Tablets often come in smaller sizes and are more portable and accessible than laptops. Laptops offer bigger screens and traditional keyboards.

Students should choose a device depending on their program. For example, online learners enrolled in a program that requires frequent writing assignments may want to choose a laptop. Students enrolled in classes that require reading and/or design might prefer a tablet. In either case, students should consider the pros and cons of each device, along with class requirements, before making a purchase.

Can I Use My Financial Aid to Buy a Laptop or Tablet?

In general, students must apply certain types of financial aid — such as scholarships and grants — directly to tuition costs. Students cannot use this money for other purchases, even if they relate to classroom expenses.

Other types of aid, such as student loans, have fewer restrictions. Online learners with student loans can apply these funds however they see fit, including paying off tuition costs and purchasing school supplies. Students can also find financial aid options like stipends and special scholarships that may be used to cover educational expenses, such as textbooks and personal devices.

What Is the Best Laptop for Online Classes?

Students should choose a laptop that meets their academic needs. Online learners can find affordable and quality laptops from many companies, including Apple, Dell, Lenovo, and Microsoft. This list of laptops provides students with many options, including some advice on personal laptop selection.

Not every laptop will suit every online learner. Students should research laptop options to find one that fits their price range, needs, and personal preferences. If possible, students should consider visiting a store and testing laptops in person.

What Is the Best Tablet for Online Classes?

Tablets offer a lightweight and accessible alternative to a bulkier laptop. Almost every tablet comes equipped with a touchscreen, and most offer styluses or attachable keyboards to accommodate students' diverse needs.

Many college students use iPads or Microsoft Surface tablets, and these options feature different advantages. For example, iPads offer direct access to all of Apple's apps, and they sync with iPhones. Surface tablets carry all of Microsoft's Office Suite, including Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Students should consider testing out different tablets to see which they prefer before making a purchase.

How Can I Get a Free Laptop for College?

Students can look for online schools with free laptops. While colleges sometimes offer this as an option, students should research the terms of the policy and what each school means by "free."

Some online schools that provide laptops include the price of the laptop in tuition costs. In this case, students still end up paying for the device, but they typically get to keep their laptop when they finish school. Other colleges might lease laptops and tablets to students. This option may cost less, but once students graduate, they must return their device to the school.

Other Financial Aid Options

In addition to attending online colleges with free laptops, students can save money on computing devices and college expenses in other ways, such as by securing financial aid, attending an inexpensive or tuition-free school, and weighing costs as part of the college planning process. Visit the following guides to learn more.