Editorial: Technology fees can solve laptop requirements dilemma

You’ve started your collegiate career. Welcome to the grown-up world.

Go down the list of the things needed in order to succeed:

Textbooks? Check. Pens and paper? Check. Backpack? Check. Expensive Macbook Pro with the AppleCare program and Adobe Creative Suite 3 Premium? Check. Wait. What?

That’s what the students said.

Eastern Illinois University’s student newspaper reported Sept. 9 that the school’s journalism department will require incoming freshmen to buy Macbook Pros so they can bring them to class.

Department chair James Tidwell told the paper that he envisions no computer labs within three or four years, according to the Daily Eastern News.

And while the journalism department requires MacBook Pros — which start at $1,999 at apple.com — the university’s communication disorders and sciences department emphatically recommends Hewlett-Packard laptops. The university even went as far as introducing a partnership with HP.

Eastern Illinois is not alone in this move. Clemson University and the University of Connecticut’s MBA program have enacted similar policies.

Yes, it’s hard to envision a college without laptops. We can think of enough professors who require papers to be typed and double-spaced. But requiring students to shell out almost $4,000 for a laptop and the necessary software in addition to tuition, books, housing and all the other expenses that come along with college is simply ludicrous.

For students who already own a perfectly functioning desktop computer or non-Apple laptop, this expense seems like an unnecessary burden.

It’s time Eastern Illinois University was introduced to something Florida universities are becoming increasingly familiar with, particularly in times of budget cuts — technology fees.

In order to offer mass communications students those nice, expensive iMacs found in the department, undergraduates who use them are charged a fee that covers the maintenance of electronic equipment.

These fees allow computer access for all students without gratuitous costs.

Part of EIU’s mission statement reads: “Eastern Illinois University is a public comprehensive university that offers superior, accessible undergraduate and graduate education.”

It’s a little hard to understand an “accessible education” for which students have to fork over so much cash just to belong to a program — particularly when a fraction of that money could be spent to offer similar results.