Online Colleges that Offer Free Laptops

Online learning is almost always cheaper and more convenient than traditional campus courses, but there is one barrier to entry: you need to own a computer. And while laptops, desktops, and tablets are more affordable than ever, you can still expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $2,300 for a new device. Fortunately, several schools recognize the necessity of a laptop for educational success and have taken measures to get students the latest technology at an affordable price — and occasionally even for free.

Practices for distributing these laptops vary widely; some schools simply include the cost of the device in tuition, while others offer special discounts through partnerships with computer manufacturers. Many schools with free laptop programs even allow students to keep their device after graduation, no strings attached. But which online schools offer laptops, and how do their policies differ? This list isn’t a definitive ranking. Rather, it’s meant to give a sense of the offers available and help you decide if a school’s laptop program is the right choice for you.

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Seton Hill University

Device Offered: Laptop and iPad
Offer: Included
Details: One of the few Pennsylvania-based online schools offering laptops to its students, Seton Hill University further distinguishes itself by providing a 32GB iPad Mini to all new full-time students. Full-time freshmen also receive a 13″ MacBook Air laptop, featuring a 1.7 GHz Dual-Core Intel i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of flash storage. Seton Hill owns the technology for the duration of students’ education, but students keep both the iPad and the laptop after graduation. The college maintains a self-service agreement with Apple, meaning that students receive technical support directly from the campus Solution Center. The Solution Center also offers loaner MacBooks for students to use while their computers are being serviced.

Southern Nazarene University

Device Offered: Laptop
Offer: Included
Details: An extension of the school’s tuition fees, all first-year students at Southern Nazarene University receive a new laptop. The school offers three options for students at varying price points: a 14” Dell Latitude 3470 with a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive; a 13” MacBook Pro with 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 128GB flash storage; and a 15” MacBook Pro with a 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and 256GB of flash storage. Students at SNU initially lease the laptop from the college, assuming ownership after their first completed semester. All notebooks include options for upgrades, and the school also offers walk-in tech support at a campus laptop center.

Wake Forest University

Device Offered: Laptop
Offer: Discounted
Details: Wake Forest University offers students several laptop options, including Dell XPS and Apple MacBook Pro models at varying costs. Students can purchase laptops directly through the college, taking advantage of significant discounts, extended service warranties, insurance policies, and campus technical support. After purchasing a laptop, students can access all necessary software at no extra cost from the school’s Software@WFU site. Students who demonstrate academic merit or financial need may be eligible for the school’s Technology Grant Program, which covers the full cost of a Dell XPS 13″ non-touch display laptop. Eligible students may also apply the grant to the cost of a more expensive laptop.

Northwest Missouri State University

Device Offered: Laptop
Offer: Included
Details: Northwest Missouri State University offers rental laptops to full-time graduate and undergraduate students for use during their time at the college. Tuition includes the cost of a 14” HP EliteBook 840 G1 Notebook, with an Intel i5 processor, 128GB Solid State hard drive, 4GB RAM, and a webcam. The laptop also includes the Microsoft Office 2013 productivity suite, giving students all the tools they need for class. Technical support for the laptop is available on campus through the Client Computing center. Northwest includes all primary textbooks in the cost of tuition, allowing undergraduate students to save an estimated $7,200 over four years.

St. John’s University

Device Offered: Laptop
Offer: Included
Details: All full-time incoming undergraduates at St. John’s University can participate in the school’s Academic Computing Initiative, which allows them to pay a small usage fee each semester for the use of a new laptop that they own after graduation. Students can choose from three models: a 13.3” Apple MacBook Pro with a 2.7 GHz Intel i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 128GB of Flash memory; a 12.3” Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with an Intel i5 processor, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB Solid State hard drive; or a 14” Lenovo ThinkPad T460 with an Intel Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB RAM, and a 128GB Solid State hard drive. Different programs recommend different laptop models, and the devices range in cost from $145 per semester for the MacBook to $110 per semester for the ThinkPad.

Full Sail University

Device Offered: Laptop
Offer: Discounted
Details: Full Sail University offers steep discounts on current generation MacBook Pro laptops for all students, made available through a partnership with Apple known as Project Launchbox. Laptops come complete with industry standard software such as Microsoft Office, Final Cut Pro, Logic, and Pro Tools (though specific software packages vary depending on program). The school distributes laptops during freshman year, but students may also receive necessary hardware and software upgrades for their chosen field during their second year or later. Students enrolled in the game development, software development, and simulation & visualization programs receive HP laptops with Windows-based software.

St. Mary’s University of Minnesota

Device Offered: iPad
Offer: Included
Details: St. Mary’s University of Minnesota has adopted the Apple iPad as a mobile education platform, which students can use to collaborate, communicate, and stay organized, using a range of education and productivity apps. Accordingly, tuition at the college includes a current generation iPad that comes equipped with both learning software and curriculum coursework, allowing students to study from home or on the go. Students use included software to read textbooks, share notes, post discussions, and video conference with teachers and students. St. Mary’s offers an online nursing degree for undergraduates, but the free iPad offer is mainly applicable to graduate students, with degrees available in special education, business, accountancy, and more.

Southern New Hampshire University

Device Offered: Laptop
Offer: Discounted
Details: Among the larger online colleges that offer laptops, Southern New Hampshire University participates in the Dell University Program, giving students access to greatly reduced prices on a variety of notebooks and desktops — including deals on overstock and clearance items. While the laptops aren’t totally free, significant discounts available through Dell’s site allow students to purchase a computer for a fraction of retail price and get competitive pricing on important software, including Microsoft Office and other productivity programs. Each laptop includes both a four-year limited warranty and accident protection, and students also have access to onsite tech support and repairs through the SNHU campus.

Purdue University

Device Offered: Laptop
Offer: Discounted
Details: Purdue University is one of the most prestigious colleges offering laptops at a discount to students, with deals available on a range of brands and products, including Apple, Dell, and HP. Students may purchase devices directly through manufacturers or browse a variety of products through Purdue’s partnership with GovConnection, an educational hardware company. Purdue students also have access to the entire Microsoft Office 365 suite of programs, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook — all free of charge. Campus technical support services help students set up Office on laptops and other applicable devices. The college also offers affordable prices on popular software such as Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft Visual Studio.

Villanova University

Device Offered: Laptop, tablet
Offer: Discounted
Details: Villanova University is one of many online colleges offering laptops at reduced prices through partnerships with manufacturers, including both Apple and Dell. Online students can browse Villanova’s site for a variety of laptops and tablets, all available at steeply reduced prices. Students interested in a new PC can browse Dell’s selection of Villanova’s recommendations, with specially configured laptops geared to the needs of different programs. All devices purchased through the school’s partnership are eligible for limited warranty repairs through Villanova’s campus computer center, the TechZone. Students also receive free anti-virus software and reduced prices on software through the school’s IT department.

Wentworth Institute of Technology

Device Offered: Laptop
Offer: Discounted
Details: As a technical school dedicated to the latest in tools for design, engineering, and science, Wentworth Institute of Technology is an online college that offer laptops as an extension of tuition costs. Students incur no additional fees as long as the device is not lost, stolen, or damaged beyond warranty coverage. Learners in each major receive a laptop based on specific program requirements, with hardware and software optimized to meet the needs of the curriculum. WIT owns the laptops during students’ time at the college, but ownership transfers to students upon graduation. Students are allowed to install their own software on the laptops. They also receive access to industry standard programs at no additional cost, some of which may be kept after graduation.

Azusa Pacific University

Device Offered: Laptop, tablet
Offer: Discounted
Details: Azusa Pacific University is one of several Christian online colleges in the United States that provides laptops to its students at a discount. Unlike many schools, computers and tablets are available directly through the campus computer store. Online students may browse APU’s online storefront, which offers competitive prices on MacBooks, iPads, Microsoft Surface Pro tablets, and PC laptops from Acer, HP, and Lenovo. All Apple and HP computer purchases include full warranty coverage and repair service, and the store provides general maintenance for most other brands of laptops. Students can also utilize APU’s technical support services, with email and 24/7 phone support available through the college’s support desk.

Rutgers University

Device Offered: iPad
Offer: Included
Details: Rutger University’s online program in digital marketing focuses on the modern technologies that drive innovation in the field, so it’s no surprise that the college supplies all students with an Apple iPad, included in the cost of tuition. The device comes loaded with the school’s proprietary mobile app, which allows students to access course content and communicate with classmates on the go. Rutgers faculty worked with Apple to customize their app and the features of the iPad to optimize curriculum content and student usage, and the device comes complete with all required reading material and videos necessary for the program.

Oklahoma State University

Device Offered: Laptop, tablet
Offer: Discounted
Details: Oklahoma State University allows its online students to take advantage of deep discounts on both Dell and Apple laptops, available for purchase through exclusive academic partnerships. Selections from Dell include Inspiron and XPS laptops, available at a wide range of prices. The Apple Store also offers a variety of discounted notebooks and tablets, with customizable choices including MacBooks, MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, iPads, iPad Minis, and iPad Pros. OSU provides students with discounts on Apple’s AppleCare Protection plan, making up to three years of coverage and technical support available at an affordable price. Students also get tech support for both Macs and PCs from the OSU Helpdesk, which offers phone assistance and in-person software support on campus.

Stevens-Henager College

Device Offered: Laptop
Offer: Included
Details: Utah-based Stevens-Henager College offers students a laptop equipped with software specifically for academic productivity, and cost is included in the school’s tuition. Students use the laptop throughout the duration of their education and keep it after graduation. Most undergraduate programs at the school include the laptop offer, though students should check the program catalog, as there are some exceptions. (Graduate students, however, should be aware that none of the school’s master’s programs include the laptop offer in their tuition.)

Different colleges have different strategies for getting notebooks and tablets into student hands. Some schools may even require you to purchase a device of their choosing before you begin classes. Making sense of a school’s technology policies can add to the stress of starting school — check out this overview of some of the most common practices to help make the burden a little lighter

ONLINE COLLEGES THAT OFFER LAPTOPS IN TUITION

How it Works What to Look for
It’s uncommon to find online schools that offer free laptops at no charge whatsoever. Instead, many colleges include the cost of the laptop in your tuition, charging you small fees over the duration of your education. While the laptop is essentially “yours” once it’s in your hands, many schools technically retain ownership until after you graduate. This means that if you stop taking classes, you may have to return the device. Other schools forgo the idea of free laptops altogether and simply offer a low prices on new and refurbished computers, a system that lets you know what you’re paying for. If you’re trying to save money, a newer laptop that’s included in tuition might be your best option. A new computer is more likely to last over time, and an extended warranty can ensure you always have the technical support you need. At the same time, it’s important to resist the allure of expensive technology. A new MacBook or iPad is certainly appealing, but if you already have a computer that does what you need, you might not want to take on the extra fees for a new device, even if they seem small when spread out over time.

Choosing the Right Laptop

Unless a school requires a specific model of laptop, it’s important to check your program’s technology requirements and make sure you choose a computer that is up to par. Schools often use specific software that’s only compatible with certain operating systems, and different degree programs may recommend different devices based on what works best with required software. Depending on what you plan to do with your computer, you’ll also want to consider factors such as screen size, weight, battery life, hard drive size, and RAM. This chart gives a rundown of a few popular laptops along with their technical specs.

Comparing Laptop Specs
Name Cost Platform Processor RAM Screen Size Weight Battery Life
Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch) $2,500 macOS Intel Core i7-6820HQ/2.7 GHZ 16 GB 15.6″ 3.99 lbs 11:19
Dell XPS 13 $800-$$1,147 Windows 10 Intel Core i3 – i7 4 GB 13.3″ 2.7 lbs 7:13
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch) $949-$1,149 macOS Intel Dual-Core i7/1.7 GHz 8 GB 13″ 3.0 lbs 12:00
Dell Latitude 3470 $500 Windows 10 Intel Core i3 – i7/2.5 GHz 4-8 GB 14″ 5.1 lbs 10:00

Technology on a Budget

Even if you don’t end up choosing one of the many online schools that offer laptops, there are plenty of other ways to save on the technology you need for an education. Check out some of these strategies to help cut your costs even further.

More Ways to Save on a Laptop

  • Laptop Scholarships

    Some schools offer scholarships or grants that specifically cover the cost of laptops, tablets, and other technology. These are typically need- or merit-based, and they may only be available to students pursuing a specific major.

  • Refurbished Laptops

    Regardless of what you’re studying, you can also save big by leasing or buying a refurbished laptop. Many online retailers offer highly functional, affordable refurbished computers for just a fraction of the cost of a newer model, and some can even be purchased directly from manufacturers.

  • Direct Purchase

    Buying a refurbished computer from a resale shop, eBay, or Craigslist is also an option, but it can be difficult to determine the condition of these devices, and the warranty or service plan (if there is one) likely won’t be as comprehensive.

Other Ways Online Learners Can Save

It’s clear that online learning isn’t going anywhere — around 30% of college students are enrolled in at least one online course, and 96% report taking classes that integrate technology into traditional classroom courses. While online learning owes much of its success to its accessibility and usefulness as a teaching tool, affordability might be its biggest selling point. The average online degree costs just around $30,000, which is almost three times cheaper than the cost of a traditional degree.

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Even if you’re saving big through online education, there are still other ways you can use technology to save even further. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks, consider eBooks and other digital media, which can often be rented and downloaded far more cheaply from online textbook retailers — and even from colleges themselves. A school’s online library resources also commonly allow students to access required books at no charge.

Online learning is almost always the cheapest education option, but be sure to watch out for hidden fees when investigating the overall cost of a degree. Some colleges charge more per credit when you take a lighter course load, and they may also charge a technology fee for each course in which you enroll. Other programs may not be 100% online, requiring travel costs for campus visits if you don’t live nearby. The nature of online courses might even necessitate other unavoidable expenses, such as a faster internet connection at home or paid Wi-Fi service if you’re traveling.

Additional Resources for Saving