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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Invest more in loaner laptops

Just over nine years ago, the price of tuition was skyrocketing and the requirement for a laptop was becoming more entrenched as just another exorbitant cost university students have to pay to attain their right to a quality college education.

Then, one anonymous family stepped up and donated $10,000 for the school to provide laptop loans, free of charge. The UA Main Library’s trust fund matched the remaining $10,000 needed to buy the computers, initially just 15 laptops, and get the program up and running.

ASUA Sen. Rhonda Tubbs spearheaded the effort, which spent just $30 on advertising; the products inevitably loaned themselves.

Today, according to Travis Teetor, library operations manager of Access and Information Services, and the man in charge of the laptop program, the libraries have 98 MacBooks, 47 full-sized PCs, 131 netbooks and 53 iPads, in addition to eight Android tablets, eight cameras, eight camcorders and 13 projectors. He said full-size laptops, particularly MacBook Pros, are their “most popular item.”

Moreover, he asserts that “since July 1, 2014, we had 23,655 requests for laptops and tablets, and we have been able to meet demand 97 percent of the time.” This does not include many who settle for Netbooks or are denied renewal.

Nonetheless, this does represent an impressive figure, and the program seems to be well-run. A reasonable $1 per hour late fee is charged once students are more than an hour late in returning the devices — 72 hours after checkout for full-sized laptops and 120 hours for netbooks.

“When you consider how many items have been borrowed, lost and damaged equipment is a fairly uncommon occurrence,” Teetor said. “The primary maintenance is done by our student employees who recharge the equipment and re-image all of our laptops to clear out the activity of the previous student and restore all of the settings … to help protect the privacy of the previous person and to assure that it is ready for the next user.”

However, because it is such a great and increasingly necessary program, we can do even better. Teetor explained that the program relies on funds from student fees, about which the library regularly meets with the Associated Students of the University of Arizona and the Graduate and Professional Student Council. This means program costs must be shared with other programs covered by the student technology fee, such as document delivery.

Additional student fees are an onerous burden for students, given the cost of tuition, but this program is essential. Imagine a student whose laptop breaks during finals week but can’t afford to replace it until next semester’s scholarship check comes in.

Jacob Davidson is a physiology senior who found himself without a working laptop last semester. He was unable to buy a new one due to tuition increases for out-of-state students and said the program gave him the ability to take notes in class and work from home.

“The rental laptops are an absolute lifesaver,” Davidson said. “I can’t imagine what I would have done [without them].”

However, whenever the time came to renew his laptop, he had to face the constant dread that there wouldn’t be enough available. Considering that California State University, Fullerton, among other rival schools, has been offering semester-long laptop rentals for several years, there is no reason that 100 percent of students who need to rent should not be able to do so. Students should be able to take out full-size laptops for five days, as renewals every 72 hours are anxiety-inducing and inconvenient.

Where should the money come from to make this happen? Frankly, it should come from administration, not from the students who will spend their post-college years paying off university costs.

President Ann Weaver Hart is due to make up to $40,000 in bonuses alone this year. That’s in addition to her generous compensation package that totals about $620,000 a year, including a $50,000 housing allowance. Given that, according to The Arizona Republic, Hart is facing serious criticism about her leadership from top donors and regents, she should consider donating her bonus to the program. It would provide a major public relations boost, show solidarity with students and be the right thing to.

All this being said, Teetor said they are planning to make a small purchase of new full-size laptops this year. At least something small is being done to address student needs in this area.

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Martin Forstrom is a senior studying sociology and Latin American studies. Follow him on Twitter.

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