$500 to $2,000 for a new laptop. Increased efficiency and convenience unfortunately come at a price: the National Association of College Stores reports students spent an average of $358 for necessary technology in fall of 2014. In response, many universities are taking steps to reduce the cost of technology. The savings for students can be drastic considering the average price of a new laptop runs from $500 to $2,000 or more. Some campus and online colleges that offer free laptops, factor those costs into the tuition; others assess a separate fee on a one-time or recurring basis. Most of these schools allow students to keep the equipment after graduation.
- WHAT COLLEGES PROVIDE LAPTOPS?
We found 17 schools that provide laptops or iPads to their students. This includes Bethel University, Centenary College, Chatham University, and Full Sail University. Read more here..
- CAN I USE MY FINANCIAL AID TO BUY A LAPTOP?
Yes. Any money that's left over after paying for tuition can be used as the student sees fit, including purchasing a laptop. However, it's recommended that students use this left-over money to pay for room and board, food, and other essential needs. Read more here..
- WHAT IS THE BEST TABLET FOR ONLINE CLASSES?
The best tablet will be different for every student. Each tablet has their strengths and weaknesses. When making this decision, it's helpful to figure out which features you desire most. Read more here..
- HOW TO GET A FREE LAPTOP FOR COLLEGE
Students must attend one of the universities that offer a free laptop or tablet to new learners. Read more here..
- WHAT IS THE BEST LAPTOP FOR COLLEGE?
The best laptop will be different for every student. Each laptop has its strengths and weaknesses. When making this decision, it's helpful to figure out which features you desire most. Read more here..
Online Colleges That Offer Laptops
If receiving a laptop is an important criterion for your choice in school, then our list of online colleges that offer laptops to their students will help in your decision making. Below, you will find the information you need to compare different computer options, as well as direct links to the program details.
|1||Bethel University McKenzie, TN||
This private liberal arts school issues laptops to all incoming, on-campus freshmen during orientation. If laptops are not picked up during the first semester, the offer is forfeited. The school does not offer insurance but recommends that students purchase private insurance of up to $600 in value. The cost of this laptop is rolled into the tuition price.
|2||Centenary College Hackettstown, NJ||
All incoming on-campus undergraduates at this private school in New Jersey are eligible for a laptop preconfigured to the school’s wireless network. Students may take laptops home for summer and winter breaks or during study abroad. Centenary graduates may also keep their laptops.
Students choose either a 5.3-lb. Toshiba Satellite C55 with a 15.6-inch screen, or a 4.5-lb. MacBook Pro with a 13.3-inch screen. Both laptops have 4Gb RAM, a 500Gb hard drive, DVD multi-drive, HDMI/VGA out ports, antivirus software and the 2013 MS Office Suite. Tech fees are assessed at $325 per semester for the Toshiba and $475 per semester for the Mac.
|3||Chatham University Pittsburgh, PA||
All incoming, on-campus freshmen at this private liberal arts university are provided with a 13-inch MacBook Air. The school also provided four years of theft and accidental damage insurance in addition to the manufacturer’s warranty.
A technology fee of $375 per semester is assessed in addition to tuition. Upon graduation, ownership is transferred to the student.
|4||CollegeAmerica Colorado Springs, CO||
CollegeAmerica is a private career college offering online and hybrid degree programs. All undergraduate students are issued a laptop, which becomes personal property after graduation. Each laptop is preloaded with the software applicable to the student’s degree program. There is no additional fee, as the cost is included in tuition.
|5||Full Sail University Winter Park, FL||
Full Sail University is a private, for-profit school for students aspiring to work in media and entertainment. Its degree programs include film, design, web design, animation and a host of other creative fields. This online school provides each student a MacBook Pro loaded with the most popular software tools in the industry. Programs vary depending on area of study but can include Adobe CC, Vectorworks, Final Cut Pro X, SynthEyes, ZBrush and Auralia.
Full Sail charges a technology fee in addition to tuition, most of which covers the cost of the MacBook and software. Though this fee varies based on degree program, undergraduates can expect to pay between $3,000 and $10,000 for a preloaded MacBook.
|6||Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC||
Wake Forest provides campus-based undergraduates computers preloaded with a suite of educational software and cloud-based tools. Students receive a 14-inch Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook configured with 8Gb RAM, 256Gb SSD, Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Office 365. A limited number of convertible ultrabooks with touch capability are also made available for a small upgrade fee.
Computers are issued during orientation. Wake Forest offers a four-year warranty plan that covers accidental damage (minus a $500 deductible) for a one-time $139 fee. After graduation, the ThinkPad may be purchased from the university for approximately $300. There is no direct charge for the laptop’s use.
|7||Northwest Missouri State University Maryville, MO||
Northwest’s full-time, on-campus undergraduate and graduate students are provided a laptop preloaded with the software required to participate in the program. Each student receives a 14-inch HP EliteBook 840 G1 configured with 4Gb RAM, 128Gb SSD, Windows 7 Pro and MS Office 2013.
The cost of the laptop is included in tuition. Northwest does not provide warranty coverage beyond that of the vendor, and encourages to insure laptops to avoid a $1,500 replacement fee. Students may keep their laptops over summer breaks for a $50 charge; however, all computers must be returned after graduation.
|8||ICDC College Huntington Park, CA||
Online students at this accredited career college are eligible for a laptop at no additional charge. Computer models may change at the school’s discretion, but they are always manufactured by ASUS. Any software required for study is preloaded, though additional tools for online study must be downloaded by the student. Any student who attends ICDC for more than 30 days may keep the laptop.
|9||Stevens-Henager College Murray, UT||
Students participating in hybrid undergraduate programs at this private technical college are eligible for a laptop, the cost of which is included in standard tuition and fees. After graduation, students may keep the laptop.
|10||Regis College Weston , MA||
Every on-campus student at this private Catholic college receives an iPad. While the iPads are not intended to replace computers, they do serve to facilitate collaboration, research and classroom participation. This tool is considered a rental while students attend Regis; after graduation, the iPad may be kept for personal use. All costs are absorbed in tuition pricing.
|11||Rochester College Rochester Hills, MI||
Entering on-campus freshmen and transfer students with less than 30 credit hours are eligible for a free laptop at this private liberal arts college. Eligible full-time students may choose either a 13-inch MacBook Pro or new iPad for use in their studies. After six semesters, students may keep the technology. Cost is included in tuition.
|12||St. John's University Queens, NY||
Incoming, on-campus students, whether freshmen or transfers, are provided with a laptop at St. John’s. Full-time undergraduate students may choose either a 12-inch Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga with 4Gb RAM, 128Gb SSD, touchscreen and Windows 8.1 or a 13-inch MacBook Pro with 8 Gb RAM, 128 Gb flash storage and 9-hour battery.
A one-time fee of $49 per Lenovo or $400 per MacBook is assessed in addition to tuition cost. Graduates of St. John’s are welcome to keep their computers.
|13||Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Winona, MN||
Online graduate students at Saint Mary’s benefit from from a mobile learning suite that has been fully optimized for the iPad. Students can use the St. Mary’s app to collaborate on group projects, attend virtual office hours, organize coursework and read textbooks.
Each student enrolled in an online graduate program will receive an iPad, ensuring everyone benefits from the expansive set of virtual tools provided by the school. All costs are included in tuition.
|14||Seton Hill University Greensburg, PA||
Full-time, on-campus undergraduate students at this private Catholic school in Pennsylvania are eligible to receive a 13-inch MacBook Air and an iPad Mini. The laptop’s specs include a 1.7GHz processor, 8Gb of RAM and a 256Gb hard drive. The iPad Mini is configured for campus wifi and contains 32Gb of storage. Devices are upgraded every two years. Upon graduation, students may keep the devices. Seton Hill charges a $1,000 technology fee in addition to tuition.
|15||Southern Nazerene University Bethany , OK||
SNU is a private Christian school that provides on-campus undergraduates laptops for classroom use. Students receive a 14-inch Fujitsu Lifebook E544, configured with 4Gb RAM, a 320Gb hard drive, Windows 8 and Office 365. For an additional, one-time $650 cost, students may upgrade to a 13-inch MacBook Pro with 4Gb RAM, a 500Gb hard drive and Office 365; for $1,450 upgrade to a 15-inch MacBook Pro with retina screen, 8Gb of RAM, 265Gb flash storage and Office 365 is also available. After one semester is completed, the student owns the laptop.
|16||Widener University Chester, PA||
On-campus engineering students at this private liberal arts university may be eligible for a computer scholarship. Entering freshmen who meet the following criteria are guaranteed a brand-new laptop: Combined SAT score of 1250 or higher or an ACT composite score of 28 or higher, grade point average of 3.5 or higher, declared major in biomedical, chemical, civil, electrical or mechanical engineering, and be enrolled full-time.
|17||West Liberty University West Liberty, WV||
Any on-campus student at this public university is eligible for a laptop at extremely low cost. Students majoring in business or education are required to purchase a laptop through the program; all other students are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity.
Students may either choose an iPad Air or a 15-inch PC-based laptop, both of which are preloaded with MS Office 365. A one-time fee of $400 per iPad or $450 per laptop is assessed. After 30 credit hours are completed, students own the technology.
Choosing the Right Device
75% of our time engaged with technology.
Given that the average students is spending close to 75% of their time engaged with technology, it is important to be comfortable with your laptop. Schools that provide laptops offer a variety of different models, and the laptop market itself is chock full of options across a range of price points. We've compiled a chart of the common laptops offered by colleges and narrowed down the specs we consider most important.
- Size & Weight
Laptops were designed for portability, a perfect option for college students on the go. Whether you go for the smaller 11” models or the larger 15”, there will be a slight tradeoff in size, power, and performance. For some, light, small, and simple works fine for basic tasks such as web browsing and word processing. For others, screen size and higher power take precedence. Choose a laptop that is best suited for the tasks at hand; unless you are in a computer science field or require a large screen and high performance for detailed tasks like design work, an 11-13” laptop should suffice. A laptop under 5 pounds is easy to find and will save you from an aching back in the long run.
- Battery Life
When it comes to key features in a college laptop, battery life is towards the top of the list. These days, batteries have become much more capable, lasting up to 14 hours (13-inch Macbook Air). Smaller computers will most often have the longest battery life as they are more efficient, while higher performing laptops use more power and therefore underperform as compared to their smaller counterparts. Overall, laptops nowadays often carry an average battery life of 8-10 on the low side and 12-14 hours on the high side. In the end, the longer the battery life, the less headache you will have searching for an outlet and toting around a power cord.
Ask yourself, would a larger screen work better for you or does a smaller screen suffice? While subjective, this should be taken into account; will you need a larger display for future coursework or will your laptop simply be a web-browsing and word processing tool throughout your college experience? Resolution is the other factor one needs to consider when evaluating laptop displays. Displays have advanced greatly in recent years and even lower priced models can carry a high-resolution display. A low-resolution display (1366 x 768) are most likely to be found in low-budget models or smaller screens, a 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution is ideal. Even higher resolutions are available but the upgrade will often be reflected in the price.
Random Access Memory, or RAM, is a form of computer memory that is available to programs during their use, meaning the more RAM available, the more applications can be used at the same time. Today's laptops and tablets generally start with 4GB of RAM, which is sufficient for web browsing and word processing. Although 4GBs has been the standard, 8GB of RAM will let you comfortably run multiple programs at the same time. As computer programs advance and update, your computer's RAM will stay the same, yet these updates come with an increase in memory use. This explains why your computer may slow over time. 4GB of RAM will get the job done when running simple applications, but upgrading to 8GB may be a better long-term investment.
- Hard Drive & Storage
A computer's hard drive is simply where a computer stores your data. Hard drives contain moving parts that read and write data, they store your documents, music, pictures, etc. Essentially, all the digital information you create and collect on your computer is stored on your hard drive. Regular hard drives vary in size and usually an increase in size signals an overall increase in performance.
A Solid State Drive (SSD) is an alternative type of hard drive which contains no moving parts and therefore makes them faster and more stable than standard hard drives. While SSDs are often more expensive, the upgrade in speed and performance may warrant the larger price tag. SSDs are three to four times faster than regular hard drives and are becoming the standard in storage. If your budget can handle it, opt for the SSD. If you go with a regular hard drive, like battery life, look for the most storage available at your preferred price point. If a larger hard drive isn't in your budget, you may want to consider external sources of storage such as a flash drive or external hard drive. 128 GB for an SSD is optimal and for a standard hard drive, try to get at least 250GB of storage.
Operating system is often a matter of personal preference. If you can, it would be ideal to see if you can try a Windows computer and a Mac computer at your local library to see which best suits you.
|13-inch Macbook Pro Offered by: Centenary College||4.5 lbs||13.3" LED 1280x800||7 Hours||802.11n Wi‑Fi 802.11a/b/g compatible Bluetooth 4.0||4GB DDR3/ Intel Core i5 2.5GHz/ 500GB|
|15-inch Toshiba Satellite C55 Offered by: Centenary College||5.4 lbs||15.6" LED 1366x768||4 Hours||802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4.0||4 GB DDR3 RAM/ Intel Core i3 2.5GHz/ 500 GB|
|13-inch Macbook Air Offered by: Chatham University||2.96 lbs||13.3" LED 1440x900||12 Hours||802.11ac Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4.0||4GB LPDDR3/ Intel Core i5 1.6GHz/ 128GB or 256GB|
|15-inch Macbook Pro Offered by: Full Sail University||5.6 lbs||15.4" LCD 1440x900||7 Hours||802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4.0||4 GB DDR3 SDRAM/Intel Core i7 2.3 GHz/ 500 GB|
|14-inch Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon Ultrabook Offered by: Wake Forest University||1.87 lbs||14" LCD 1920x1080||8.6 Hours||802.11ac Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4.0||8GB DDR3L SDRAM/Intel Core i5 2.9 GHz/ 256 GB|
|14-inch HP EliteBook 840 G1 Offered by: Northwest Missouri State University||3.48 lbs||14" LED 1600x900||15 Hours||802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4.0||4 GB DDR3 SDRAM/ Intel Core i7 2.1GHz/ 128 GB|
|14-inch Fujitsu Lifebook E544 Offered by: Southern Nazarene University||4.2 lbs||14" LED 1600x900||11 Hours||802.11ac Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4.0||4 GB DDR3L RAM/Intel core i5 2.6GHz/320 GB|
|12-inch Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga Offered by: St. John's University||3.48 lbs||12.5" LED 1920x1080||8 Hours||802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4.0||4GB DDR3/ Intel Core i5 2.9GHz/128GB|
|iPad Air Offered by: Regis College||1 lb||9.7" LED 2048x1536 264 ppi||10 Hours||802.11a/b/g/n Wi‑Fi Bluetooth 4.0||1 GB DDR3/Dual-core 1.3 GHz/ 16, 32, 64, or 128 GB|
|iPad Mini 3 Offered by: Seton Hill University||0.75 lbs||7.9" LED 2048x1536 326 ppi||10 Hours||802.11a/b/g/n Wi‑Fi Bluetooth 4.0||1 GB DDR3/Dual-core 1.3 GHz/ 16, 64, or 128 GB|
Stretching Your Laptop Budget
$708 per year avg. tech cost for student
Fortunately for cash-strapped students, especially those without a school-sponsored program, there are alternatives. As you weigh your options, it's important to remember that lower costs up front may not equal lower costs in the long run. As a student, you require a reliable computer that that will last for four years and ideally after graduation. Some alternatives to retail purchasing can carry hidden costs that outweigh any discounts you might receive in the short term. With that caveat in mind, consider the following avenues to computer ownership.
Computers may be leased or rented until you've paid for their full value and can assume ownership. Companies like Aaron's, Rentex and Rent-a-Center stock devices from all leading brands. Leases like this are structured much like auto or house payments, charging interest in addition to the property's value. Usually, you can expect to own a computer in one to two years this way.
Depending on your situation, there are pros and cons to this option. Some companies offer a same-as-cash clause that allows you to avoid interest charges if you pay the amount due within a specified time period. If you're confident you can meet this deadline, this could be a good short-term solution. If there is no same-as-cash clause, or if you fail to pay the loan on time, extremely high interest rates can kick in. Paying exorbitant “convenience” charges can quickly add up to more than the computer is worth, so approach these vendors with caution.
Consumer electronics vendors often offer financing packages, extending the cost of the computer in a loan to the consumer. Similarly to rental or leasing centers, interest is charged; however, this option is credit-based and generally charges much less interest. For a young adult who needs to build credit, financing a computer this way could be a sound option if the interest charges are within reason. It's prudent to remember, though, that these vendors often carry high overhead costs and increase their prices accordingly.
- Student Financing
Computer manufacturers may offer direct financing programs, and some are structured specifically for higher education. Lenovo, Dell and Apple each offer discounted pricing on products for college students. Some schools negotiate pricing and payment options for their enrolled students. If your institution isn't one of these, you may still enjoy discounted products and financing options. As with any financing offer, read the fine print and understand your total cost.
- Direct Purchase from
The open market is not without its opportunities for a low-cost computer, and many college students have concluded their search with an eBay or Craigslist purchase. In this situation, caution cannot be overstated; there is little policing of individuals on these and other online classified or auction sites.
Before you begin your search, understand exactly what features and models interest you so that you can search intelligently. An awareness of typical market pricing or resale value on particular models can also help you avoid being fleeced. And finally, exercise the utmost care in transacting with individuals from these sites. The vast majority of online sellers are honest individuals, but it's important to detect poor deals or unsafe situations.
Taking Care of Your Purchase
31% lose their files from events beyond control
Technology requires basic maintenance to perform at its best. Whether your tuition includes the cost of a laptop or you purchase one yourself, you need it to last throughout your time at school. Protect your financial investment and avoid aggravation by taking care of your device. Keep the following in mind as you use your new computer.
The standard manufacturer's warranty for new computing products is one year. Because you plan to use yours for two to four years, consider whether you need to purchase an extended warranty. Evaluate options for theft and accidental damage, which are generally not covered by standard insurance policies. Some schools that lease or sell laptops to students also offer additional insurance.
- Data Backup
Avoid the classic college nightmare: working tirelessly on a paper or project that inexplicably disappears right before you're to turn it in. Routinely back up data on your hard disk or into a cloud service and consider making extra copies of important material on a flash drive.
- System Updates
Whether you purchase and Apple or PC product, operating systems updates are periodically released. Each update is designed to repair errors in previous versions and to introduce features that make the software more efficient and speedy. Keeping your device up-to-date guarantees that you'll experience the best your system has to offer.
All computers and especially portable devices gather dirt, dust and grime from constant use. We all know better than to eat over our keyboards, but most of us do it anyway. Regular cleaning keeps your device functioning optimally. Learn which cleaning methods to use—and not to use—and employ them.
- Never use harsh chemicals like bleach, kitchen or bath cleaning products on your computer.
- Do use a lint-free cloth, like chamois or the cleaning cloth that comes with a pair of glasses.
- Carefully wipe plastic surfaces with computer cleaning solution, a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water or plain water.
- An inexpensive can of compressed air cleans crumbs, lint and dirt from between crevices and under the keyboard. Remember to keep the can upright; tilt the keyboard toward it for safe use.
- Virus Protection
Many new computing products are prepackaged with virus protection software in the form of limited-time, bundled services. Be aware of the expiration date on your product and renew it or replace it when it's nearing expiration. Schedule regular system scans at convenient times and respond immediately to virus definition update notifications. The are a number of nuances to the most popular antivirus programs, to better understand your options check out PCMag's Best Antivirus of 2015 breakdown.
This continually updated list displays the best available deals on laptops. Taking bang-for-your-buck into consideration, this resource breaks down the features that make each laptop a sound purchase for a college student.
This publication annually updates its list of the ten best laptop choices for college students.
This organization, owned and managed by students and faculty, provides new and refurbished laptops to students at discount rates.
Part of the Tom's Guide technological series, this annually updated guide reviews most current computer models. Suggestions by area of academic interest are included.