Colleges view laptops as essential tools

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Casey Mills, a news-editorial graduate student works on his laptop in Andersen Hall.

Buying a laptop is no longer an option for hundreds of students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The 753 students enrolled in the College of Architecture, College of Journalism and Mass Communications and in the Jeffery S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management are required to own, lease or have access to laptops that meet particular requirements.

UNL doesn’t have an overarching requirement for students to own laptops, but other universities do. The University of Florida, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, for example, expect all students to have laptops.

According to college officials, it makes sense for colleges to adopt this policy in an age where students are working more heavily with and on computers.

“We are a computer science program,” said Lori McClurg, director of operations and marketing at the Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, emphasizing that most students already come into the program with their own laptops. Working with computers is part of being in the school, which started the policy to standardize the equipment used.

So far McClurg hasn’t had any students who couldn’t afford to buy their own computer or lack adequate access to one. If a student did need help, McClurg said the college would work with the student to solve the issue, either by finding a donor to purchase a laptop or find a refurbished computer that was more affordable.

While laptops and computers are integral parts of a program such as the Raikes School, not all programs rely heavily on computers. Nursing student Regina Roebke, 20, of Seward said it would be a bad idea if her college required laptops.

“Taking notes on a laptop doesn’t work for me,” Roebke said. She said most of her science classes require her to draw out models, so there isn’t much use in using a laptop for her. She also said a lot of people still prefer using desktops, so she doesn’t understand why students should be required to buy laptops.

Abby Emanuel, 22, of North Bend, a family science major, said she wouldn’t have a problem if laptops were required, but only because she always planned on having one in college.

“I don’t think it’s fair that they would require to have them,” Emanuel said, “because I do have friends who weren’t able to afford them when we first got here, and they took full advantage of all the computers on campus.”

Dean Wayne Drummond of the College of Architecture stressed that for students to be highly competitive after graduation, they need to be highly skilled in using design software and other computer skills.

Drummond acknowledged the cost concern of buying the type of laptops and software that the college requires. Because of the design software that students need, the cost for a laptop in the program can be more than $2,000.

If laptops are required, instead of recommended, students can use financial aid toward covering costs. If students still can’t afford it, Drummond said that there are computers available for students to use in the lab with the necessary software.

“No student, because of their financial background, whether they are economically disadvantaged in whatever way, no one will be denied access into the program,” Drummond said “We will find a way.”

Kellie Jakubowski, 24, of Lincoln was a former interior design student in the College of Architecture. She was required to purchase a computer that cost more than $2,000. She said she received discounts and software deals that kept the cost down, otherwise it would have cost closer to $4,000.

“People thought that the price was ridiculous,” Jakubowski said. “A lot of people complained.” If the cost of the computer hadn’t been covered by grants, she never could have afforded it, she said.

Drummond said that the financial burden rests with the students, but the college wouldn’t be able to afford to provide all students with the technology that they need for the program.

Some universities provide their students with laptops, such as Wake Forest University, but it also charges students $3,000 more in tuition to cover the cost.

For Drummond, the benefits to the students are well worth the cost. Laptops, and more importantly the software on them are a part of the curriculum now just as textbooks are an important part of educating students.

“We’ve got to make our young people very competitive in a brand new world,” Drummond said.

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