Online Colleges That Offer Laptops and iPads


Today's college experience necessitates a laptop or tablet. Students use the devices to access programs and files for courses, to conduct online research, and to navigate online learning management systems (LMSs). An LMS can include discussion forums, assignment drop boxes, course materials downloads, and email functionality. Notably, since they learn remotely, online students require a digital device.

Students should expect to pay between $500-$1,500 for a laptop or tablet, depending on their program's requirements. Some online programs offer laptops or tablets to their students for free or at a deeply discounted rate. More than a dozen online colleges provide free laptops or tablets that students can keep after graduation; others offer free laptops for college students that must be returned. The majority of colleges, whether online or brick-and-mortar, feature some type of discount on laptops and tablets, such as some certain school that have rental programs for laptops or tablets.

When deciding on a laptop or tablet for school, students should take into consideration the minimum technology requirements of their college and program. Minimum technology requirements of a college or program outline the hardware, software, and internet/email capabilities necessary for a student to complete his or her coursework successfully. Students should also consider their specific program's requirements. For example, a graphic design degree may require use of software that takes higher computing power than the minimum requirement set by the college.

Are the Laptops Online Colleges Offer Completely Free?

While many online colleges advertise free laptops or tablets, they rarely provide truly complimentary devices. At many institutions, students pay a technology fee, which can be a one-time or yearly fee, and it may vary depending on the laptop or tablet the student receives. Some schools state that this fee covers device insurance, while others add an insurance fee on top of the technology fee. It is also important to note that the cost of basic programs like Microsoft Office may not be included in the technology fee, even if your completion of the degree requires that program.

Finally, some colleges and universities in the U.S. offer their students laptops or tablets through grants or scholarships. Even if a school doesn't offer "free" devices, it may offer them at a deep discount, as does Villanova, or for rent, as do Northwest Missouri State and Drexel.

What Colleges Offer Free Laptops?

Colleges That Offer Free Laptops

Bethel University

Bethel University offers laptops to all incoming full-time students. If students do not pick up their Bethel laptop during their first semester, they forfeit possession of it. Students using Bethel laptops have many resources available to help them with their computing needs.

Widener University

Widener University awards eligible engineering students brand new laptops. Requirements for this school's laptop scholarship are continued full-time enrollment in one of the engineering degrees and meeting one of the following academic requirements: a combined SAT score of 1310 or higher, an ACT score of 28 or higher, or a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Seton Hill University

Through the Mobile Learning @ The Hill Program, Seton Hill University offers all traditional full-time undergraduate students MacBooks. This program has garnered Seton the distinction of being an Apple Distinguished School. The high caliber of their program allows the university to offer on-campus AppleCare support, which includes loaner laptops.

Chatham University

Chatham University offers Macbook Air packages to all incoming first-year students. The package includes a laptop, a backpack, a laptop case, various protection plans, and repair services. While graduate students are not eligible for the Macbook Air package, Chatham does offer financial assistance to graduate students needing a laptop to meet the graduate laptop requirement.

St. John's University

Eligible students at St. John's University may participate in the Academic Computing Initiative Program and receive a portable computing device for use during their studies; the school charges a laptop fee to the student's account every semester. The students may keep the laptop as long as they remain enrolled full time at the University and abide by the terms and conditions.

Northwest Missouri State University

Northwest Missouri State University provides full-time undergraduate and graduate students with a fully-loaded laptop. The cost of the laptop is included with tuition, and the university estimates that the laptop program, along with the textbook rental program, saves students $7,300 over the course of four years of study. The program also includes technical support.

Wentworth Institute of Technology

The laptop program — for full-time matriculating undergraduate and master's of architecture students at Wentworth Institute of Technology — provides laptop options tailored to each major. Faculty select the laptop for each program based on the specific needs of their students.

Stevens Henager College

Stevens Henager College provides laptops to undergraduate students to provide the tools for success at their institution and to remove what can be a financial obstacle for some students. The new laptop is reserved for students to use while they are in school, but they can be kept after graduation. Students in the School of Graphic Arts receive a MacBook.

Colleges That Offer Free Tablets

Seton Hill University

As part of the Mobile Learning @ The Hill Program, Seton Hill University gives iPads to all traditional full-time undergraduate students. Apple recognized Seton Hill as an Apple Distinguished School for this program. This partnership allows the university to offer on-campus AppleCare support.

Long Island University - Brentwood

As part of an initiative started in 2013, Long Island University – Brentwood offers iPads free of charge to new full-time criminal justice undergraduate students and at a discounted rate of $250 to new part-time criminal justice undergraduate students. Students are eligible as long as they are making satisfactory payments to their account and submit required documentation.

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Students receive iPads as part of Saint Mary's University of Minnesota's fully online graduate degrees and to demonstrate the school's commitment to mobile learning. The iPads are fully integrated into the course curricula and come loaded with Engage, the university's main app, as well as other productivity apps like Adobe Connect.

Colleges That Offer Discounted Laptops

Villanova University

Villanova University's purchase program allows students to purchase Dell and Apple computer equipment at a discount through Villanova's partnerships with the vendors Connection and Apple. Connection offers seven choices of laptops and two choices of monitors for Villanova faculty and students, while Apple offers three types of laptops, two all-in-one desktops, two GPUs, and four iPads.

Colleges That Offer Laptop Rentals

Northwest Missouri State University

Northwest Missouri State University provides full-time undergraduate and graduate students a laptop for school use. The cost of the laptop is included with tuition, and the university estimates that the laptop and textbook rental program saves students $7,300 over the course of four years of study.

Drexel University

Students at Drexel University are able to borrow laptops from a service desk or a laptop kiosk in their libraries. The only costs incurred to students result from late fees, or fines issued for violating the terms and services. If borrowers stick to the rental period and follow the terms and conditions, this service is available for free.

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How to Choose the Best Laptop for Online College

When choosing a laptop for college, students should consider price, portability like weight and profile, battery life, technical specifications for their school, program-specific software, and brand or type. Regarding the latter, students must initially decide between a Mac or a PC (personal computer).

First, Mac computers are, for the most part, immune to viruses, offer solid support outside of what is offered by a college, integrate well with iPhones and iPads, and work well for creative and design degrees like graphic design and digital media and animation. Second, PCs can include touch screens and a flexible operating system. For example, Windows 10 operates on laptops and tablets, whereas Mac's operating system only operates on its laptops and desktops. PCs also tend to be less expensive, and work well for gamers and in disciplines, like business, that focus on performance and functionality. Check with your college to see if your program requires a specific type of computer.

Cost and Spec Comparison of Popular Educational Laptops
Model Name Cost Operating System Processor Speed RAM Screen Size Weight Battery Life
MacBook Air $999 macOS High Sierra 1.8GHz dual-core Intel i5, Turbo Boost up to 2.9GHz, with 3MB shared L3 cache 8GB 13.3″ 2.96lbs Up to 12 hours of wireless usage or audio playback
Microsoft Surface Pro $799 Windows 10 Pro Intel 7th Gen Core m3 4GB 12.3″ 1.69lbs 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 4GB 12.5″ 2.60lbs Up to 10 hours

Model Name Cost Operating System Processor Speed RAM Screen Size Weight Battery Life
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 4GB 11.6″ 2.57lbs Up to 8.5 hours
Apple MacBook Pro $1,799 macOS High Sierra 2.3 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz, with 128 MB of eDRAM 16GB 13.3″ 3.02lbs Up to 10 hours of wireless usage or audio playback

Minimum Computing Requirements for Online Schools

Requirements will differ by the type of program chosen, so be sure to check with your prospective school to ensure you are equipped for success.

To enroll in classes online, you must have access to a computer with the following minimum requirements:


  • At least 10 GB of free hard drive space (additional space may be needed for course-related files)
  • A monitor capable of displaying 1024×768 or greater resolution
  • DVD-ROM drive or CD-ROM drive
  • Sound card with speakers and microphone (for some classes)


  • Operating system:
    • Minimum: Windows 7SP1 or Apple OS X
    • Recommended: Windows 8.1 or 10 or Apple OS X
  • Microsoft Office
    • Minimum: 2010 SP2
    • Recommended: 2016 or 365 ProPlus
  • A current version of the following:
    • Adobe ® Reader
    • Adobe ® Flash Player
    • Oracle ® Java
    • Any antivirus software


  • High speed internet connection with a connection speed of at least 1.5MB/second
  • Web Browser
    • Google Chrome
      • Minimum: N/A
      • Recommended: Latest version
    • Mozilla Firefox
      • Minimum: N/A
      • Recommended: Latest version
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer
      • Minimum: 10
      • Recommended: 11
    • Microsoft Edge
      • Minimum: N/A
      • Recommended: Latest
    • Apple Safari
      • Minimum: 7 or 8
      • Recommended: Latest