Free laptops for college students: Myth or reality? We dove deep into the fine print to discover the truth about free technology for students.
Have you ever been the lucky winner of an Xbox 360? The 25,000,000th visitor of the day and are now eligible for a gift card? If you have spent more than ten minutes browsing the web, chances are you have ‘won’ something. Immediately, your mind perceives this as too good to be true — and for good reason. These sites will promise you your reward after you enter sensitive personal information such as your phone number and address. Because of covert scams like this, our researchers set out to investigate if free ever truly means free.
Several schools that have online programs have recently begun boasting free laptops as a way to cut costs for their students. According to the National Association of College Stores, in autumn of 2014 students reportedly spent an average of $358 dollars on necessary technology.
This “free laptop” offer requires that you jump through many hoops including giving up your personal information, signing up for “trial offers”, suffering through pop-up ads, endless spam e-mails and telemarketer phone calls. In the end, there is no free laptop — just a scam.
By providing free laptops or iPads, the schools can save the students money directly by providing them with the technology they need to complete their coursework, and indirectly by allowing them to download e-books in lieu of having to purchase expensive physical textbooks. This sounds like a great program, but the truth is, many of these schools factor an astronomical ‘technology fee’ into their tuition, or there are strings attached to the supposed free laptop or iPad.
The computer is an incredible educational utility, and a worthy investment for any student pursuing their degree online. While college life can sometimes leave you digging for quarters in your couch, an offer for a free laptop should never be taken at face value. In situations like this, diligent research is key. What must you do to be eligible? Will you get to keep it after graduation? Is there any warranty or insurance? Is it truly free? Who really paid for it?
For instance, Centenary College is one of the schools that prides itself on offering free laptops to students. The fine print lets us know that this is only for on campus students, who will pay anywhere from $300 to $500 per semester for their ‘free laptop.’ As if this isn’t bad enough, things like this start as early as elementary school where parents end up paying fees for their child’s free laptop that is mandatory for certain assignments. Centenary is just the tip of this deceptive “tech fees” iceberg.