|Monday, November 30, 1998||
Volume 64, Issue 68
Ed De La Garza's Readers Speak
Lisa M. Chmiola
Will work for a laptop
Perhaps nothing has changed education in this century more than the computer. Most of us students interact with computers on a daily basis, whether through something as complex as writing a high-tech virtual reality simulation program or something as simple as using a word processor or checking e-mail.
It has become necessary to be computer literate, and those who aren't will find themselves falling further into an information gap that will be increasingly harder to climb out of.
The situation has grown to a point today where more and more universities are requiring their students to own computers -- usually portable laptop models. Several small private colleges have been issuing such computers for a few years as part of their tuition, but now the trend is including large public institutions. Students are not furnished with computers when they check in, but the universities make it known that the students are expected to purchase them.
Is paying for a computer on top of what may already be a hefty financial burden too much to ask of students? Not if universities provide some help with the cost.
Though most schools -- including UH -- have large computing labs open to all students, it's not the same as having a personal computer. This is particularly true at commuter schools like ours, where a student might have to make a two-hour round trip just to use one of the on-campus machines.
The problem lies in how to pay for the computers. For some students, even a specially offered reduced-price machine costs too much. And at UH, where a laptop computer could easily cost the same as tuition and fees, even allowing financial aid to be applied toward purchasing a computer might not help.
The answer, if schools are going to require their students to own computers, is to provide as much help as possible in purchasing and maintaining the machines. It would be ideal for universities to be able to include computers in their tuition and fees, but most schools -- especially public ones -- cannot.
Having a personal computer in the hand of every college student will probably become necessary someday in the near future. However, we cannot expect that to be a reality if universities don't help absorb the cost of the machines. It's only fair.