Colleges and universities across the United States, especially those that offer online or hybrid programs, benefit from incorporating technology into the learning process and curriculum. Many schools now offer free laptops and mobile tablets to students, some schools also allow students to keep these devices once they graduate.
The types of free laptops and tablets provided varies depending on the school and academic program. Some even give students a choice, with a select few providing both Mac and PC computers. Other institutions incorporate mobile learning as a key component of their program curriculum. Students can view course lectures, take notes, study, complete homework, work with their peers, and even take exams using their school-issued devices.
EdTech magazine reports that about two-thirds of college and university students say they use mobile devices regularly to complete their online classes. More than 40% of these students complete assignments on their tablets or smartphones.
As time goes on, the importance of laptops and tablets only increases in higher education. The leading postsecondary institutions continue to innovate in how they provide accessible technology for students.
The list below features the top 10 colleges and universities offering free laptop and tablet programs. We’ve ranked these schools based on the quality of the technology each institution provides, the variety of devices available, the software included with each computer, and whether students can keep the devices once they graduate. Additional factors include whether students must pay any technology fees and if they need to purchase specific software as part of the program.
Seton Hill University
|Device Offered:||Laptop and iPad|
Through the Mobile Learning @ The Hill program, Seton Hill provides a free MacBook and iPad to each full-time undergraduate student and those seeking a physician’s assistant master’s degree. Additionally, students in the MA in marriage and family therapy and orthodontics programs receive a free iPad, while MA in art therapy students get a free MacBook.
Seton Hill also maintains AppleCare services on campus, which means students do not need to call or visit an Apple store for technical assistance. All laptops and tablets provided by Seton come with all the software needed to view class lectures, complete assignments, and engage in discussion boards.
Mobile Learning @ The Hill earned the university recognition as an Apple Distinguished School for 15 years and counting. The school even offers loaner MacBooks while technical support staff work on students’ laptops.
Seton Hill is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Independence University Online
|Device Offered:||Laptop and Tablet|
Independence University offers both laptops and tablets to students at no charge, giving them the technology they need to complete their coursework. The school mails all undergraduate students a tablet before they start their first module, and then a laptop during their fourth module. Each module lasts four weeks, and IU offers only online associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees.
The school’s laptops come with the software and capabilities necessary for all IU courses. Technical support for both hardware and software helps students operate devices quickly and efficiently. Students can keep their tablets and laptops after they graduate.
IU provides its free laptops and tablets to undergraduate students only. Those seeking a master’s degree do not qualify for the program.
The university, located in Salt Lake City, is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
St. John's University
|Offer:||Included with opt-in to program|
St. John’s Academic Computing Initiative offers free laptops to students who opt into the program. Those who opt in receive on-campus technical support, a four-year warranty, and preinstalled software compatible with all course requirements. Anyone who graduates with a bachelor’s degree from the school can keep the laptop permanently.
Students may select from three different computers: the Apple MacBook Pro, the Lenovo ThinkPad L380, or the Lenovo ThinkPad L380 Yoga. Each comes with a laptop usage fee students must pay each semester. The ACI also provides loaner laptops if students’ main devices need significant servicing or repair.
Although students may choose whichever laptop they desire, the College of Professional Studies mass communication program and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences BFA program recommend the MacBook. The College of Business and computer science program prefer a Lenovo device.
St. John’s is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Northwest Missouri State University
Northwest Missouri State’s free laptop and rental textbook programs save students an average of more than $7,000 over four years in school. The university provides free laptops to full-time undergraduate and graduate students, who may keep the devices as long as they maintain the minimum credit requirements each semester.
The laptop, an HP EliteBook 840 G1 Notebook PC, features a 14″ display and webcam, a 128GB solid state drive, and an Intel i5 processor, and comes equipped with all the software students need to complete their coursework, including Microsoft Office 2013 and Windows 7. Students must return their laptops by the last day of finals week and cannot keep them during breaks or after graduation.
Additionally, the Northwest Technology Service Center provides free repair services for school-issued laptops, as long as the damage stems from normal wear and tear.
Located in Maryville, Missouri, Northwest is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Maryville’s Digital World program provides a free iPad to every full-time undergraduate student. The tablets serve as a cornerstone in the school’s course delivery and come equipped with all the digital textbooks, notes, and assignments students need for success in their higher education pursuits.
Digital World, launched in 2015, reflects the university’s efforts to place technology at the center of the learning process. MU’s iPads include the Maryville Cloud, which features various applications and content necessary for students’ coursework.
Students may use the iPads for both academic and personal use and install additional applications as they see fit, but Maryville can push applications and updates to them as needed.
Technical assistance and an Apple Corps team are available at the campus library. Although the tablets remain Maryville’s property while students continue to enroll in classes, graduates may keep them as their own.
Maryville University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Saint Leo University
|Offer:||Included for eligible students|
Saint Leo aims to ensure all students can access the technology required for a rigorous full-time program. The school’s University Technology Services offers a laptop provisioning program for all full-time undergraduate students who live on campus. Those participating in the university’s honors program do not need to meet this residency requirement.
The HP X360 laptop with an 11.6″ LED touchscreen and Intel Pentium N3700 Quad Core processor provided by Saint Leo also includes the Windows 10 operating system, Microsoft Office 365, and antivirus protection.
Students not eligible for the free loaner program, including undergraduates living off campus and part-time students, may rent a laptop from Saint Leo for a $250 fee. The university also provides help desk support for all laptops available through its provisioning and rental programs.
Saint Leo, located near Tampa, Florida, is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
CollegeAmerica provides students with a free laptop in addition to textbooks, lab supplies, and e-books to prepare students for academic life. The private nonprofit school offers numerous online associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees and features campuses in Arizona, Colorado, and Idaho. Laptops from CollegeAmerica include all the software required in its classes. CollegeAmerica also offers technical support to help students maximize the use of their devices.
Students can keep their laptops if they graduate from the school. Courses do not require students to purchase traditional textbooks. Distance learners use the free laptops to access course materials; take part in discussions; and complete assignments, quizzes, and exams.
CollegeAmerica is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
St. Mary's University of Minnesota
St. Mary’s delivers all its online graduate degrees via an iPad that students receive upon starting their program. The platform, known as Engage, enables students to work together on group projects, share notes, record and post videos, and chat via Facetime. At the same time, students learn technology skills that benefit a variety of career paths.
Through Adobe Connect, groups of St. Mary’s instructors and students can get together at scheduled times and engage in live sessions. Apps like Diigo, VoiceThread, Visual Poetry, and Doodlecast Pro also serve as key components of the learning process.
All iPad-based courses feature an asynchronous schedule, which means students may access course materials, lectures, and assignments largely on their own time. The connectivity of the devices and apps allows students to schedule video chats with instructors and other students.
St. Mary’s, located in Minneapolis, is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Stevens-Henager College provides free laptops to all undergraduate students, in addition to textbooks, lab supplies, and career services. Students use these laptops throughout their coursework and may keep them upon graduation. The computers include the software and applications learners need to access course materials, lectures, assignments, discussion boards, and quizzes and exams.
In addition, the college provides technical assistance, allowing students to get their laptops up and running if they experience any issues and ensuring they have the tools necessary for success in their classes.
The school also features an e-book loaner program that enables students to check out devices and digital textbooks for free, returning them at the end of the course.
Stevens-Henager, founded in 1891, features eight campuses in Idaho and Utah, with its main campus in Provo, Utah. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
What Else Should I Know About Free Laptop Programs?
Colleges have different strategies for ensuring students have access to notebooks and tablets. Some schools may require students to purchase personal devices before beginning classes. Understanding each school’s technology policies can add to the stress of enrolling. This overview of the most common practices can help make the process easier for new students.
ONLINE COLLEGES THAT OFFER LAPTOPS IN TUITION
|How it Works||What to Look for|
|Online schools rarely offer laptops at no charge. Instead, many colleges include the cost of the laptop in the tuition rate, charging students small fees over the duration of their education. Many schools technically retain ownership of each student’s laptop until after they graduate, which means learners who stop taking classes may have to return their device. Instead of free laptops, some schools offer new and refurbished computers at discounted prices.||Students who want to save money should consider schools that offer new laptops, the price of which are included in tuition. A new computer is more likely to last over time, and an extended warranty can ensure access to technical support. However, students should avoid paying for expensive technology they don’t need. While the idea of a new laptop can be appealing, students with a functioning computer may not want to pay for a new device, even if the fees are spread out over time.|
Choosing the Right Laptop
Unless a school requires students to have a specific model of laptop, learners should choose a computer that meets their program’s technology requirements. Schools often use specific software that’s only compatible with certain operating systems, and programs may recommend students have certain devices. Students should also consider factors including screen size, weight, battery life, hard drive size, and RAM. The chart below lists the technical specifications of a few popular laptops.
|Name||Cost||Platform||Processor||RAM||Screen Size||Weight||Battery Life|
|MacBook Air||$999||macOS Mojave||1.8GHz dual-core Intel i5, Turbo Boost up to 2.9GHz, with 3MB shared L3 cache||8 GB||13.3″||2.96 lbs||Up to 12 hours of wireless usage or audio playback|
|Microsoft Surface Pro||$799||Windows 10 Pro||Intel 7th Gen Core m3||4 GB||12.3″||1.69 lbs||Up to 13.5 hours of local video playback on Wi-Fi; 12.5 hours on LTE Advanced|
|Asus Chromebook Flip C302||$649||Chrome OS||Intel Core m5 1.1GHz, Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz||4 GB||12.5″||2.60 lbs||Up to 10 hours|
|Lenovo Yoga 730||$879||Windows 10 Home||1.8GHz 8th Gen Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.0 GHz with 8MB cache||Up to 16GB||13.3″||2.62lbs||Up to 10.5 hours|
|HP Stream 11-Y010NR||$199||Windows 10||1.6GHz Intel Celeron||4 GB||11.6″||2.57 lbs||Up to 8.5 hours|
Technology on a Budget
Students who do not choose one of the many online schools that offer laptops can still save on necessary technology. The table below includes strategies to help learners save money on laptops.
More Ways to Save on a Laptop
Some schools offer scholarships or grants that cover the cost of laptops, tablets, and other technology. These are typically need- or merit-based awards and may only be available to students pursuing a specific major.
Regardless of field, learners can save money by leasing or buying a refurbished laptop. Many online retailers offer functional refurbished computers for a fraction of the cost of a newer model. Manufacturers may also offer refurbished technology.
Students can consider buying a refurbished computer from a resale shop, eBay, or Craigslist. However, determining the condition of these devices may be difficult, and these laptops rarely have a warranty or service plan.
Other Ways Online Learners Can Save
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 29.8% of undergraduate students took at least one online class during fall 2015. Additionally, many on-campus programs integrate technology into classrooms. While many students pursue online learning for its accessibility, affordability is another major benefit of distance education. While tuition rates are typically similar for online and on-campus programs, distance learners often save money on costs associated with housing, transportation, and campus fees.
Online students can use technology to save even more money. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks, students can consider eBooks and other digital media, which typically cost less than physical books and are often available to rent or download from online textbook retailers or directly from institutions. Students can often access required books through their school’s online library at no charge.
Online learning is almost always the cheapest education option, but prospective students should watch out for hidden fees when researching the overall cost of a degree. Some colleges charge students taking lighter course loads higher per-credit rates. Institutions may also charge a technology fee for each course. Other programs may require campus visits, which increase transportation costs. The nature of online courses may necessitate other expenses, such as a faster home internet connection or mobile Wi-Fi service.
Free Laptop Scholarships
Free Laptop Scholarships
Dell Scholars $20,000+
Amount: $20,000, a laptop, and textbook credits
Salute to Education Scholarships $1,500+
Amount: $1,500 and a laptop
High School Laptop Scholarship Contest Free laptop
Amount: Free laptop
Cecil C. Humphreys Merit Scholarship $9,700/year+
Amount: $9,700 per year, $5,000 housing grant, $2,000 study abroad or student exchange stipend, and a laptop
CUNY Tuition and Merit Scholarship Package Full tuition+
Amount: Full tuition and a laptop
Additional Resources for Saving
- How College Students Can Save Money on Pricey Textbooks This article explains how to save on textbooks by buying used books and electronic versions. The article links to websites that students can use to find the best deals.
- College Students Have Options to Save Money on Technology This resource describes several ways that students can eliminate or reduce technology costs. The article suggests inexpensive and free applications, websites, and products.
- 5 Tips to Help College Students Save on Electronics This resource helps students learn how to save money on computers and other electronics. The author suggests buying used devices and taking advantage of student discounts to find cheap laptops for school.
- 8 Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks This U.S. News and World Report article outlines several tips for spending less on textbooks each semester. The author recommends renting books, checking the library, and avoiding the college bookstore.
- 31 Ways to Save Money in College TheStreet, a financial news site, details 17 offensive tactics and 14 defensive methods for reducing common college costs. The author recommends looking for student discounts and testing out of low-level courses to save money.