With education now firmly planted in the information age, laptops are becoming an increasingly crucial tool for students on campus. For those who cannot afford a laptop, there are short-term laptop loan programs available, which can be extended long-term if the LSA student or faculty member has the required paperwork. According to a recent article in The Michigan Daily, the University is working to improve the current program through a pilot laptop loan program that will launch in Fall 2015, allowing students who need the most financial assistance to borrow a laptop for the duration of their time at the University. However, for this program to be successful, this program needs to expand its eligibility and be more transparent to students.

There are significant disadvantages to not owning a laptop on campus. First, the number of available desktops for students to use is limited largely to libraries and residence halls — which for some students may not be conducive work environments. This limits the flexibility in work hours. For example, a student that must go to the library for computer use may not feel comfortable going there late at night. Furthermore, not being able to keep up with taking notes during a fast-paced lecture is more difficult, if not impossible, for a student without access to a laptop. Trying to work on group projects could prove challenging without access to a laptop, mandating the group to convene in places with desktops or for an individual to be forced to constantly look at a laptop over someone else’s shoulder.

There are ways the University is attempting to help students who need them but for a short period of time. According to the Instructional Support Services Media Center Loan at the University, a student can borrow a laptop for 24 hours. If no one else is waiting for it, the student can renew it for another 24 hours. It is possible to repeatedly check out computers to extend the loan or override the 24-hour rule with correct paperwork showing that a student needs it for a project or a class, but there is no direct way to acquire a laptop for a long period of time. At the Media Center Loan in the Modern Languages Building, there are six PCs and six MacBooks available in total for loan. As of April 12, there were two MacBooks and four PCs available. There is also a loan center in Mason Hall, where there are seven PCs available and 10 MacBooks available. On April 12, all PCs and six Macbooks were available.

While effective for short-term solutions, this program is lacking for students who can’t afford a laptop and need one. The new pilot program the University wants to implement in Fall 2015 would be an effective way to solve this problem. Currently, Stanford University has a program in place which students on financial aid can receive compensation for certain purchases in relation to technology and computers. The University should follow this model; it provides students the help they need while also allowing for flexibility in the computers they decide to purchase. In addition to a program for students on financial aid, as a second component, the University should work toward a rental program that is cheap and accessible to all students — regardless of socioeconomic status.

The University should work toward more transparency in these old and new programs, by sending e-mails at the beginning of each semester, for example, that remind students about these programs and what they offer. And when the University begins the new Fall 2015 laptop loan program, the University should include information about it in financial aid packages.

Laptops may not have been a necessity in the past, but today, they are essential to being a successful college student. In order to level the playing field for all students, it is crucial that computers are accessible to all and that there are measures to ensure that students who need financial assistance to purchase them receive it.

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