Laptop loan program helps students access technology

While working on her computer, Oreja Guri, freshman, studies in the Mary Idema Pew Library on Nov. 3 in Allendale, MI.

Kasey Garvelink

While working on her computer, Oreja Guri, freshman, studies in the Mary Idema Pew Library on Nov. 3 in Allendale, MI.

Riley Collins

With online learning emphasized in universities across Michigan now more than ever, Grand Valley State University has introduced a program to help students meet the new demand: a laptop loan program.

The program will allow for students who meet the specified requirements to apply to receive a free laptop. The student must either prove a need for financial aid, be a student veteran or be a Pell grant recipient.

The laptops the program lends are working models that carry Microsoft Office programs and come with power cords and docking stations. They are leant out similarly to a library book and are part of a free loan, allowing students to keep the laptops as long as they are a student at GVSU.

For Anita Benes, office coordinator for the Brooks College Office of Integrative Learning and Advising, this also served as an opportunity to reuse working electronics that have been discarded by faculty and staff.

After Benes’ personal laptop died in September of 2016 and the replacement was too costly, she went to a workshop about sustainability in the office place where the Surplus Store was mentioned.

She noticed an old laptop in one picture during the presentation and said the idea just came to her.

“I thought: wouldn’t it be great if I could come up with a program to take recycled computers, keep them out of landfills, but give them to students who need them, who can’t afford to replace their computers,” she said.

Benes started brainstorming ways to help more students struggling with failing technology in the face of online due dates and hours of online homework. With the help of downtown Grand Rapids’ Surplus Store, Benes was able to create the first GVSU laptop loan program.

“They have given us five laptops for free to start us out with,” she said. “And we have now given out three of those (so) I’m going to apply for a sustainability grant to purchase some more.”

Though the laptop program is new to the campus community, students and faculty have already started taking notice of its benefits. Alayna Weekley, a women and gender studies professor, is recommending it to students as a regular part of her first fall semester classes.

“I have talked about it in all of my classes,” Weekley said. “I think it’s a really good way for us to reduce waste on campus and to make the resources we have go further and to make us more sustainable.”

For Weekley, the laptop loan program was ideal because GVSU already has the resources students need in the form of pre-used faculty devices.

“I was really excited about it because we had just had a conversation in our department about the extra laptops we have,” she said. “So when the university replaces the equipment they provide us with, as faculty, we sometimes have extra stuff lying around that they don’t always come and pick up.”