With undergraduate enrollment having declined 6.6 percent since fall 2019, helping students save the thousands they’d have to spend on a computer could also serve as an incentive to attend a school — particularly if they’re already preparing to borrow a significant amount of money to finance their education.
“In recent years, if getting a device loaned to them for the duration of their stay was part of that offer letter, that was huge, and still is for a lot of students,” Mathew says.
Shenandoah University — which began handing out an iPad and MacBook to each undergraduate student and grad students in certain programs in 2010 — has received positive feedback about its iMLearning device program, according to Don Silvius, support specialist for the program.
In response to an incoming freshman survey question that asked if the program had affected students’ decision to choose the Winchester, Va., school, more than 70 percent said yes.
“It’s not only been good for the students but for the university, because enrollment has increased,” Silvius says. “In 2006, enrollment was between 3,000 and 3,500, and it’s now roughly 4,000. It looks like the program may have been a factor in the increase in enrollment, since it has grown so much in the past 15 years.”
Instead of focusing on financial need, a per-semester fee for SU’s device program is rolled into students’ tuition, Silvius says, even if they opt out. Students essentially lease the equipment and can keep it after they finish their education. If they graduate early, transfer to another school or leave for another reason, they can return the devices or buy out their lease, which are prorated.
After SU began including the Apple Pencil in its tech package when the stylus tool came out several years ago, a study the school conducted found the number of students who regularly used their iPads increased by 50 percent, Silvius says.
Today, Shenandoah students check lectures they’ve recorded on their iPads when notes they’ve taken in class are unclear; music production and recording technology majors who help with plays, musicals and concerts also use the devices to control the sound during shows.
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“In the very beginning, in the discussions and meetings the university had, it was all about mobility,” Silvius says. “It’s a lot easier to carry a smaller device around. You can download digital textbooks, keep your notes on it. Unless you’re typing a 25-page paper, you can pretty much do everything you need to do with the iPad and the Apple Pencil.”
The university was named an Apple Distinguished School, of which there are fewer than 700, something Anderson called “a testimony to what the faculty and students are doing with the technology.”
“To be able to integrate it at such a high level and get that recognition is very nice,” he says.
Warranties Help Make Device Use More Affordable for Students
Including a warranty for students’ iPads and MacBooks has helped Shenandoah curb repair expenses for all involved parties. Although AppleCare+ doesn’t fully cover some damage, students would only pay $99 to replace a broken screen, for example, instead of $600, says Tom Anderson, assistant director of operation support services.
“Accidents happen; screens get cracked, the keys break,” Anderson says. “None of the students are bringing in six-figure salaries, so it’s helpful to them. Offering AppleCare+ helps the school out too, because previously, there was a limit to the chargeback that would go to the student for the repair. The university would absorb the rest of the cost. AppleCare+ has put a cap in place that has saved the school some money.”