Higher education in the 21st century depends on technology, and free laptops for college students is a pretty obvious way for colleges to make technology accessible. The circumstances and policies are different for every free laptop college; sometimes you can take online courses with free laptop rental, or sometimes a free laptop for college is exactly that – a free laptop for college. Some colleges offer a free iPad for students, or even an iPad Pro for students. A few extremely generous institutions (Seton Hall, for one) will even give students a free laptop and tablet.
If you’re wondering “How can I get a free laptop?” the answer is from just about any of the 25 College that Offer Free Laptops or iPads. Looking for the best tablets for college students on a budget? How does free sound? Whether it’s a laptop provided for underprivileged students on financial aid, or a top of the line iPad Pro for students in graphic design or digital marketing (just think about your social media presence), colleges that offer free laptops are showing what it takes to make learning in the 21st century accessible and transformative. For innovation – providing technology will be standard in no time.
Ranking the Best Free Laptop Colleges
So what colleges offer free laptops? These colleges – the 25 Colleges that offer free laptops or iPads. College Consensus looked for institutions that have made their free laptop or tablet initiatives a key selling point, and did the research to determine just what kind of offer they’re making – if it’s really free, if it’s hidden in fees, if it’s loaded with red tape or free as Christmas. These are the best 25, the colleges that offer free laptops for students not just as a carrot on a stick, but as a real pedagogical tool that is deeply embedded in learning.
Colleges are ranked by the College Consensus Student Reviews score, because when it comes to free laptops for college, keeping the students happy is paramount.
Duke University Global Health Institute
Duke University’s free iPad program is offered to students in the Global Health Institute, in interdisciplinary research and degree-granting center dedicated to global public health. The GHI’s mission is to bring together knowledge and expertise from all over Duke University to combat health issues from every angle – scientific and medical, political and social, environmental and economic. As a technologically advanced program, a free iPad for students becomes their key tool.
One of the most prestigious institutions in the world, recognized among the elite Southern Ivies, Duke University is known for being continually on the forefront of research, instruction, and practice. Founded in 1838, Duke became one of the wealthiest private research universities in the nation with the Duke Endowment, given by tobacco magnate James B. Duke. With an endowment of $8.5 billion, Duke funds some of the most advanced research in medicine and technology in the world. It’s also made it possible for Duke to be a tuition-free college.
Independence University’s free Laptop for College program is billed as a key part of students success. A non-profit, fully online university, Independence offers students a tablet during their first module (term), and a laptop in their fourth. While the devices are included in tuition and fees, students are permitted to keep the devices after graduation (they must be returned, however, if students drop out). As figured into a package including free tutoring, tech support, textbooks, and career services, the free tablets and free laptops for college students are a token of Independence University’s commitment to their students.
Independence University is the fully online wing of Stevens-Henager College, having merged with SHC in 2010. Founded in 1978 as a distance education institution offering correspondence courses, Independence has a long history of providing support and opportunity for working adults and other nontraditional students. With accelerated terms (called modules) of four weeks, with new terms starting each month, Independence is well-known and respected for their flexibility and support.
Wake Forest University
Wake Forest University’s Technology Grant program is a crucial way that the university supports students who need financial help, offering free laptops for college students. Any student receiving need-based aid, merit scholarships, or athletic scholarships, can apply for the Technology Grant to get a WakeWare laptop, as well as insurance. Even students who do not qualify for the Technology Grant can receive a discounted WakeWare device, which includes insurance, tech support, and repair services with their free laptop for college.
Wake Forest University is often named among the Southern Ivies, a highly respected private research university dating back to 1834. Known for its medical, business, and biotech programs, and frequently ranked among the most elite and selective institutions in the nation, Wake Forest makes all possible effort to support students from underprivileged and underrepresented backgrounds. Programs like the Technology Grant are just one way WFU makes sure to get the most qualified students, no matter the cost.
Dakota State University
Dakota State University’s tablet program, part of the Wireless Mobile Computing Initiative (which launched in 2004), provides all incoming freshmen with a free tablet. Specially configured to the needs of a Dakota State student, the tablet initiative is intended to contribute to a paperless classroom, giving students the capability to take notes, record audio, complete and turn in assignments, and just about everything else on one device. The Fujitsu tablet PC is also provided with free tech support, repair, and battery replacement for the entirety of the student’s college career.
Dakota State University dates back to a teacher training school founded in 1881, but in 1984 the university was designated as South Dakota’s technology university, and DSU has followed the mission intently. Beyond being one of the first campuses fully equipped with wifi technology, and one of the first free laptop college programs, Dakota State is a national leader in online education, and has been named a Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity by the NSA. Frequently named one of the most innovative colleges in the nation, Dakota State’s motto – “Embrace Innovation” – couldn’t be more accurate. It’s also one of the most affordable universities in the US.
Northwest Missouri State University
Northwest Missouri State University’s free laptop for college program is designed as a way to save students time and money; the cost of textbooks and a laptop are rolled into each students’ fees, so students simply pick up their free laptop for college students in their freshman year, and a bundle of textbooks at the beginning of every semester. All full-time undergrads and graduate students get a fully-loaded laptop, tech support and repair services, and, according to the university, an average savings of $7300 over four years.
As a regional public university, Northwest Missouri State University is dedicated to accessibility and affordability. Founded in 1905 as a teacher’s college, NMSU has always put the needs of Missouri’s working people and young people first. WIth reasonable tuition rates and high-quality academic programs, Northwest has often been cited as a best value. Small class sizes, faculty mentorship, and an emphasis on experiential learning makes it a top choice for aspiring young professionals.
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota’s iPad for students program provides all online students with an iPad to use in their classes. No matter where they live, students in online and hybrid programs will have a top-shelf iPad shipped out to them at no charge, with Saint Mary’s learning platform and useful productivity apps already installed. Providing an iPad for students in online classes helps students connect with their learning; nearly all coursework can be done on the iPad, though students will also need access to a laptop or desktop for some requirements.
Founded in 1912 as a Catholic men’s college, Saint Mary’s University today is a coed institution led by the Brother of the Christian Schools monastic order, and one of College Consensus’ Best Catholic Colleges. Well known for their academic rigor and excellence (a hallmark of the Christian Brothers), Saint Mary’s has also become a nationally-recognized leader in online education – leading to the free iPad for students initiative. With a focus on nontraditional learning, especially for working adults, Saint Mary’s is making its name in the 21st century.
Southern Nazarene University
Southern Nazarene University’s free laptops for college students program comes with some strings attached; all students can get a Dell PC laptop for free, but switching to a Mac requires an upgrade fee. Fair enough; a high-performing Dell laptop is a free laptop for college, distributed at new student orientation at the beginning of every year. For $700, students can get a 13” Macbook, or a 15” Macbook Pro for $1450. In any case, SNU’s program provides students with the technology they need to succeed.
One of the eight Church of the Nazarene-affiliated liberal arts colleges (representing 8 regions of the US), Southern Nazarene University’s home is Oklahoma, and while it’s history is a little convoluted with mergers and moves, SNU has been there in some form since 1899, when Oklahoma was still the Oklahoma and Indian Territories. An open admissions college, SNU is known for its student support and accessibility, providing students from all backgrounds the support they need to accomplish their goals – including a free laptop for college.
Full Sail University
Full Sail University’s Project Launchbox goes well beyond just free laptops for college students, or a free iPad for students. Students in various on-campus and online programs get a whole package of technology to aid them in their program, including gear and software suites. For instance, Digital Cinematography students receive a camera, lighting equipment, microphones, editing software, and more; Game Design students get a whole virtual reality set-up, including headset and advanced software.
Full Sail University began as a recording studio in 1979, adding recording and video production courses the following year. Over time, Full Sail has become known as a center for technology learning, and began offering fully online degree programs in 2007. An accredited for-profit college, Full Sail is known for its highly specialized programs and its outreach to nontraditional students, and has been named one of the best schools for music and video production in the world.
Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University’s student laptop program doesn’t precisely offer free laptops for college students, but SNHU students do get a healthy discount on Dell and Apple products. In addition to discounts on laptops, desktops, and tablets, SNHU students get free tech support and repair, a free warranty, free software, and various other benefits for being an accepted student. With the vast majority of SNHU students taking online courses, a discount laptop or iPad for students is a value.
Southern New Hampshire University has been around since 1932, when it was founded as a small business school, but it’s unlikely anyone outside of New Hampshire would have heard of it without one little innovation: the internet. SNHU was an early adopter of fully online education, and today more than 80,000 students attend SNHU online – compared to just 4000 traditional on-campus students. That technological savvy has made SNHU known as one of the most innovative colleges in the nation.
University of Minnesota-Crookston
The University of Minnesota-Crookston’s free laptop for college program is part of the UMC Advantage, the full experience that has made UMC one of the best regional universities in the MIdwest. All incoming on-campus freshmen receive free laptops for college students, while online students can apply for a free laptop if they take half their credits on-campus. With a strong emphasis on technology and innovative learning, UM Crookston makes sure students have what they need for today and tomorrow.
The University of Minnesota Crookston dates back to 1966, when it was built on the site of an agricultural research farm founded in 1895. As a technical college, UMC’s emphasis was always on practical learning for the workforce, and in 1993 they launched the Laptop U initiative, one of the first programs in the country to offer free laptops for college students and faculty. They still keep it up, as well as affordable tuition for residents and nonresidents, 87% job placement, and generous financial aid. “Small College. Big Degree” indeed.
Western Kentucky University
Western Kentucky University’s free laptops college program is little different from others. Rather than free laptops for college students, WKU has relationships with Dell and Apple for students to get discounts on Mac computers, Dell laptops, and Microsoft Surface tablets, and the Recycled Computer Program lets departments get used devices. But most uniquely, students who complete 40 community service hours can get a free refurbished Macbook. Making the free laptop for college an incentive program helps get more students out there serving.
Western Kentucky University began in 1976 as a private teacher training and business school, becoming a public institution in 1906 when the state of Kentucky bought out the school (and its student body). Ranked one of the top regional colleges in the South, WKU has always put a priority on the needs of Kentucky’s working people, and that mission continues today. High ranking on the Social Mobility Index shows that WKU is doing what it promises – helping Kentuckians to a better life.
Rochester College’s free laptop for college program is unusually generous. Beginning in 2008, Rochester was the first college in Michigan to give every new student a free MacBook. That means first-time freshmen as well as transfers (as long as they have less than 29 transfer credits), and even dual-enrollment high school students. Today, students choose between a MacBook Pro or an iPad, and it’s theirs to keep as long as they complete 6 semesters. Free laptops for college students are rarely such quality, or so no-strings-attached.
Rochester College is motivated to become one of the most innovative and progressive colleges in the nation, and their free laptop college status is just one small part. Affiliated with the Churches of Christ, Rochester College was founded in 1954, and in just over half a century has accomplished more than colleges twice as old. Known primarily as a liberal arts college, Rochester is on track to become a university by 2020, and its commitment to technology is carrying Rochester forward.
Rutgers University Newark’s free iPad for students program isn’t for everybody – they’re not handing them out like candy. But students in the world-renowned Rutgers Business School who are taking the Mini MBA in Digital Marketing have a claim to a free iPad. It only makes sense, after all; for Digital Marketing, an iPad is just one of the crucial tools of the trade. The interdisciplinary Mini MBA is one of the most innovative programs in the nation, and a free iPad for students is just icing on the cake.
Rutgers Newark is one of the three campuses of Rutgers: The State University of New Jersey, and the home of the Rutgers Business School. Founded in 1929, the Rutgers Business School is one of the highest-ranked b-schools in the nation, regularly hitting the top 10 and top 20 in rankings from the Princeton Review, Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, and more. With its finger on the pulse of banking, finance, industry, and government, Rutgers is not just reacting – it’s making the future of business.
Chatham University’s free laptop for college program supplies every new incoming freshman with a Macbook Air. The laptops are used throughout campus, as faculty work to include technology in their instruction. Along with the laptop itself, Chatham offers warranty, theft, and damage protection, free repair services, and even a backpack with the Chatham logo. Graduate students do not get a free laptop, but can receive financial aid to purchase the required technology. Offering free laptops for college students makes Chatham top-ranked for student support.
Founded in 1869 as a college for women, Chatham University became coeducational in 2014, though the student body is still overwhelmingly female. Chatham remains highly focused on preparing young women for lives of entrepreneurship, leadership, and service. Recognized as one of the best regional colleges in the North, Chatham has also been known as one of the most innovative. With its free laptop program, Chatham prepares students to use technology in all aspects of their lives.
Bethel University (TN)
Bethel University provides free laptops for college students from their very first day; students either receive a new Chromebook at the New Student Orientation, or their computer is shipped to them, if they are online students. The Chromebook format allows faculty and students to use their laptop more effectively in classwork, since the entire system is web-based, with more convenient sharing and collaboration. With the ease of incorporation, students and faculty use their free laptop for college work.
A Christian university in McKenzie, TN, Bethel University began in 1842 as a seminary, and remains affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Highly respected throughout Tennessee, Bethel is known for its academic excellence and its Christian worldview, with the majority of students coming from Tennessee. In recent years, Bethel has become known for its growing selection of online degree programs as well, with strong student support for online students – including, of course, the free laptop for college.
Seton Hill University
Seton Hall University’s technology program makes it one of the best free laptop colleges in the nation. Seton Hall provides both a MacBook and an iPad for students who are taking a full-time load, and unlike other colleges, where only undergraduates receive technology, graduate students can also get a Macbook and/or an iPad (depending on the program). Seton Hall has been an Apple Distinguished School five time, earning recognition for their excellence in using technology for instruction.
Seton Hall is the oldest Catholic college founded by a diocese (rather than a monastic order), dating back to 1856; it is named for Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born Catholic saint. Known for its excellent schools of medicine, law, and business, Seton Hall is widely ranked one of the top Catholic universities in the nation, as well as one of the best for internships. Seton Hall’s deep connections throughout the New Jersey and the Tri-State Area make it one of the best universities for experiential learning and job placement.
One of the oldest colleges in the US, Moravian College’s free laptop college status makes it one of the most contemporary. All incoming freshmen at Moravian College receive a Macbook Pro and an iPad, prompting faculty and students to make greater use of technology than ever. With a focus on using technology in cutting-edge flipped classrooms, and faculty creating their own course literature and apps, Moravian College’s All-Apple initiative also creates standardization across the campus that facilitates collaboration.
Moravian College dates its founding back to 1742, with the Moravian communities of Bethlehem, PA. The first school in the US to educate women and Native Americans, Moravian did not become a college until 1863. One of the most respected colleges in the Northeast, with known for its educational rigor and its excellence in undergraduate education, Moravian makes collaboration between students and faculty a priority – a mission made much easier as an All-Apple free laptop college.
Widener University Engineering Department
Widener University’s free laptops for college students is a special program only supported by the School of Engineering. Eligible undergraduate students in the engineering program can apply for the Laptop Scholarship. Students must meet certain guidelines, including minimum SAT or ACT scores, a GPA of 3.5, and be enrolled full-time. For students who meet all of these guidelines, Widener will provide a free laptop, which can be used for their coursework.
Widener University is one of the oldest colleges in the region, beginning as a boy’s school in 1821. That long history has made Widener one of the most beloved and influential small liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania, regularly ranked one of the best national and regional institutions. Widener is particularly known for its impact on social mobility, and for its commitment to service; Widener has been included in the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for more than a decade.
West Liberty University
West Liberty University’s Student Laptop Program provides free laptops for college students entering in their freshman year. All first-time, full-time freshmen are eligible to receive a laptop for free, allowing faculty to integrate technology into their curriculum at every level. All courses make use of online course content. In addition to a laptop, students have all of the support they need from the Student Laptop Center, including repair, software support, and assistance with their personal laptops and desktops as well.
West Virginia’s oldest college, West Liberty University dates back to 1837, when West Liberty was the frontier and West Virginia was still part of Virginia. That long and esteemed history has made West Liberty University one of the most trusted in the Appalachian Mountains, and the university’s reputation for service and social mobility has been a boon to the people of the region. The Student Laptop Program, providing a free laptop for college, is just one example.
St John’s University-New York
St. John’s University’s Academic Computing Initiative (Laptop Program) provides a laptop for every new freshman and transfer student who wants one. Students are not required to take part – the ACI is entirely voluntary – but every student who participates gets a laptop, plus warranty, repair and tech support, and a loaner (if their laptop breaks) for just a small fee added to their tuition. It’s a savings for students, and gives every St. John’s student the potential for an equal footing technologically – keeping with the university’s egalitarian values.
St. John’s University began in 1870, when the Bishop of Brooklyn invited the Vincentian Fathers to open a school for the underprivileged. Though St. John’s moved to Queens in the 1950s, it’s mission has not changed; St. John’s remains committed to reaching out to motivated and talented young people from underserved communities, earning a reputation for social mobility and community service. St. John’s keeps tuition exceptionally low for a college of its caliber, and programs like the Academic Computer Initiative is a key part of making college affordable.
Johnson C Smith University
Johnson C. Smith University’s free iPad for students initiative is a critical part of the university’s mission to become a New Urban University. For many years, JCSU provided free laptops for college students, but in recent years, that program has shifted to iPads through a special agreement with Apple. The iPad for students initiative has been deeply integrated into student life and the classroom, with faculty incorporating multidisciplinary and multimodal teaching and research from the humanities to business to the sciences.
Johnson C. Smith University is a private HBCU in Charlotte, NC, founded in 1867 by the Presbyterian Church. JCSU was one of the institutions originally included in the Duke Endowment (the majority of which funded Duke University). In recent years, JCSU has worked to shift its curriculum from a traditional liberal arts college to an urban research university, with a strong emphasis on innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology, which has reached a culminating point with a new science center and the Apple partnership. That work has earned JCSU recognition from the Gates Foundation for an Institutional Partnership grant.
Wentworth Institute of Technology
Wentworth Institute of Technology’s free laptops for college students program has been going strong since 2004, when laptops were first offered in a pilot program. While that first program gave students a Mac, today all students entering as freshmen are given an HP Razer PC laptop. Depending on the student’s major, each department determines what software to include, as well as different devices and operating systems for certain majors. The price of the laptop is rolled into students’ tuition, and graduates are allowed to keep the computer.
Wentworth Institute of Technology began as a technical school in 1904, making its place in Boston, MA (the US city most densely populated with colleges) on career-focused education in practical professions. Wentworth is particularly known for its engineering and business programs, and for its cooperative education requirement, in which students spend two semesters working with one of the college’s corporate partners. The laptop programs demonstrates Wentworth’s dedication to useful technology in education.
Long Island University Post’s iPad Initiative provides iPads for students, with the program starting in 2010 – the largest such program attempted at the time. From the beginning, the program was hailed as one of the most innovative uses of technology in higher education, with students and faculty bringing the interactivity that the iPad provides into the classroom. That accessibility and useability suits LIU Post well, since the university has long been known for its innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. From electronic textbooks to cloud-based assignment, LIU Post’s iPad for students program is a trailblazer.
LIU Post is Long Island University’s largest campus, built on the former estate of the Post family in Long Island’s well-heeled Brookville village. One of the most respected private universities in the greater New York, NY area, LIU Post is especially known for the business and technology programs, features that have been particularly well-served by the iPad Initiative. With a highly diverse student body, LIU Post is dedicated to giving students the tools they need – literally, in the case of free iPads – to make the most of their potential.
Delaware State University
An exciting new partnership with Apple provides Delaware State University’s iPad initiative, providing a free iPad Pro for students (all new incoming freshman), as well as faculty members. The iPad Pro for students is part of a broader Digital Learning Initiative, which intends to make all DSU instruction digitally-based by 2020. The greater power of the iPad Pro for students and faculty have more options for cutting-edge, innovative projects. Students also get a cover, and an Apple Pencil, promising that in less than two years, printed textbooks and paper exams will be a thing of the past.
Delaware State University is a respected historically black college in Dover, DE, originally founded in 1891 by the state’s General Assembly as a land-grant agricultural school for black students. Because of that heritage, DSU is one of the leading HBCUs in the nation for STEM, building on the tradition of engineering established in its first years. Delaware State’s commitment to applied sciences and technology is solidified by its iPad Pro for students program.
Stevens-Henager College (West Haven, UT)
Stevens-Henager College’s free laptop program is one of the institution’s hallmarks. All students starting out at SHC get a free laptop, which they are allowed to keep after graduation (technically, they paid for it in their tuition fees). Students in the School of Graphic Arts get a Macbook. But Stevens-Henager goes well beyond just a free laptop for college; students are provided with all textbooks and lab supplies, as well as tutoring and career counseling, all as part of their regular fees. SHC’s student support is extensive, and free laptops for college students is just the beginning.
Stevens-Henager College is a private, nonprofit college based in Utah, but with campuses throughout Utah and Idaho. Founded in 1891 as a business and secretarial school, SHC has built a reputation over more than a century for entrepreneurship and innovation, always embracing the most current technology and methods of instruction. That includes online degree programs and free laptops for students, which allow faculty to incorporate technology in every aspect of the curriculum.
Are These Free Laptops for College Really Free?
Okay, here’s where it gets just a little tricky. Not that the colleges that offer free laptops are trying to trick you – just that (as in all things) you have to read the fine print. Some colleges actually do offer a free laptop for college students – students pay nothing. That may be because of a special technology grant that allows the college to get the devices at no cost to them, passing the free laptop on to students. Apple has partnered with many schools to provide an iPad for students or even an iPad Pro for students, free to them and to the school; it’s all part of Apple’s commitment to transforming education in the digital age.
In other instances, though, the cost of the laptop or iPad is actually rolled into your tuition and fees – it’s only “free” because you’re not paying for it directly. There are advantages there, though; essentially, you pay for the computer in installments, using your student loans or scholarship and grant money, so the cost gets spread out and doesn’t hurt quite so much in the short term. In most cases, too, the devices are much cheaper than you would pay buying them on your own.
Whatever the case, check out the terms for your college to know what you’re getting into. Knowing what colleges offer free laptops shouldn’t change your mind – it’s just an added incentive, not a deal-maker or deal-breaker.
Who is Responsible for Maintenance of the Laptop? What if it’s Stolen?
Of course, responsibility your free laptop for college depends on the institution, but in general, what college offer free laptops also include warranties, repair plans, replacements or loaners, and tech support as part of the deal. In most cases, you’re not on the hook for ordinary problems. However, most colleges will hold you responsible for issues that come up from negligence – dropping your iPad and cracking the screen, for instance.
As for theft – if your computer is stolen, often the fine print says you’re responsible for securing your own goods. A few very generous colleges will include theft replacement plans with their laptops, but that’s the rarity.
Also be aware – at just about every institution that offers free laptops for college students, you have to return the laptop if you drop out. Many schools will let you keep your laptop when you graduate (since we all want a 4-year-old laptop for a graduation gift), but nobody – we mean nobody – lets you just skedaddle with that piece of equipment. Get ready for a hefty bill if you try.