Laptops are an essential tool for the average college student, so for those without the economic means, not having one can be an obstacle to completing education.
The Women’s Resource Center is hoping to change that. Leaders from the organization are reaching out to non-traditional students to loan them laptops during their college careers. Kim Hall, associate director for the center, said they received a grant from a local foundation to purchase 50 new Toshiba laptops for Fall Semester and have been lending them to students in need. Most are single parents or from low-income families.
“The lack of service [of technology] isn’t the issue,” Hall said. “Accessibility is the issue.”
For students who are working, studying and raising kids, it can be a hassle to come to campus just to get access to a computer.
“It opens up all these options
because cell phones and computers are something we assume that everyone has,” Hall said. “It is just not the case.”
Mary Smeding, a mother of four and a freshman in secondary education, received a laptop to start working toward her bachelor’s degree this semester. She is happy to have more time to dedicate to her kids and grateful that the laptop came with programs that would have cost her hundreds of dollars.
“It was a gift and such a relief,” Smeding said. “It takes away a lot of the stresses that most people don’t think about.”
The U’s IT Department loaded all basic programs free of charge and are donating their time to repair the laptops as needed.
This is a major help to Valerie Green, a graduate student in educational leadership and policy. She owned a home computer but had a crisis when it crashed at the end of the semester during finals week.
“I called [the office] and had a computer the next day. It saved my life that semester,” Green said.
She was surprised by the Women’s Resource Center’s trust in giving out the laptops so readily.
“There are no parameters, which adds to the value of the program,” she said.
There are still 25 laptops the center hopes to give out. Those who meet the needs from their FAFSA, a financial aid form, can walk out of the office with a laptop to use until they graduate.
“There is nothing attached,” Green said. “They just want you to succeed.”
Hall said each set comes with a laptop, cover, mouse and jump drive that cost around $500. Students on the U’s satellite campuses are also able to take advantage of the program. Hall hopes that by addressing little issues such as computer access, there can be big improvements in the retention and graduation of women and other non-traditional students.
“Their whole life changes based on being able to work from home,” Hall said.