The importance of affordable technology for college students

Updated on August 25, 2023

Published Aug 22, 2023 - Affordable technology is transforming the college experience, enhancing productivity, connectivity, and learning outcomes in a student’s educational journey.

College affordability is a significant issue in American society. A recent Cengage poll indicates that 68% of college students say they or their families struggle to pay for their education. Additionally, almost half of the students polled said tuition had been one of the most significant pain points, followed by technology, books, and course material.

This article will explore the value of affordable technology for college students and offer tips on how students and their families can find low-cost solutions.

Why is technology important in higher education?

Technology is essential in higher education, especially in today's digital landscape. Technology has provided many opportunities for both students and educators. Implementing technology improved collaboration, access to information, and enhanced learning experiences. It has also increased remote learning opportunities and accessibility.

Remote learning was largely unavailable to previous generations of college students. Yet, after advancements in technology, it has now become more widespread. Through online platforms, learning management systems, and video conferencing tools, remote learning has allowed students to access education from anywhere by breaking down geographical barriers.

How technology is an entry point to educational equity

Technology's potential to enable accessible and flexible learning opportunities for students can be hindered by the obstacle it poses to those without access.

During the shift to remote learning following the COVID-19 pandemic, 20% of college students had difficulty transitioning to a completely digital experience because they lacked access to the necessary technology. The increasing reliance on technology in classes can pose significant challenges for students who lack access. In turn, this inhibits their ability to succeed in college courses.

Technological barriers may make college appear even more unobtainable to students and their families, especially if finances are a primary concern.

Necessary tech for college students today

There are several necessary technologies that college students need to achieve academic success. While specific tech requirements may vary depending on the college and classes, many pieces of technology are essential for every student. These can include:

These standard pieces of technology help students access course materials, complete and submit assignments, communicate with classmates, and more. Still, essential technology such as laptops, computers, and mobile devices are costly.

How to find affordable and accessible technology as a college student

Technology is undoubtedly a crucial factor in modern-day education. But, high prices can make college inaccessible for many students. A recent NACS survey noted that in the 2021-2022 school year, students spent nearly $700 on technology for their courses, up from $694 the school year prior. The survey also noted that “ Half of students say they use digital course materials more now than they did before the pandemic, with only 9% using digital materials less.”

It’s safe to assume that the post-pandemic college experience is more reliant than ever on technology, which means lower-income college students might face challenges when it comes to accessing the technology they need to succeed. Students and their families can overcome the financial barriers of acquiring these technologies by seeking out affordable options.

There are many strategies available to help college students find affordable technology for their classes. These strategies also help students fully engage in the digital learning environment and maximize their educational opportunities. With a proactive approach, college students can navigate financial challenges and equip themselves with the technology needed for academic success.

Look for refurbished technology

Refurbished technology is products that are restored to working conditions and are much more budget-friendly than brand-new devices. Consider purchasing refurbished devices, such as laptops or computers, from reputable sellers. When looking for a reputable seller, be sure that there are options available to you should the device not work. Check their website for customer reviews, check to see if there are return options, money-back guarantees, warranties, or any other safety nets for you as a consumer.

While the low prices may be tempting, it is essential to remember a few things before buying refurbished devices. For example, before purchasing a refurbished laptop, consider the following:

  • The suitable model for your needs (processing power, display size, storage, etc.)

  • Researching trustworthy refurbished sellers 

  • Looking for guarantees or warranties with your purchase

  • Comparing pricing options

Some sellers will even offer a student discount. Seeking out deals from retailers helps college students further maximize their affordability savings.

Buy used

Used technology often still works like new at a fraction of the price. Explore online marketplaces, reputable sellers, or college bulletin boards for used technology. Many students will sell their devices at the end of the academic school year or when upgrading. Purchasing second-hand devices can provide an opportunity to find even more affordable pricing.

You can find used iPhones and used Samsung devices online as well. Many newer phone models only have a handful of extra features or offer slightly better processing capabilities. Due to this, it can be more cost-efficient to buy an older, used phone that is almost the same as the brand-new model.

While buying used may save money in the short term, know that there is an inherent risk associated with purchasing used devices. Used devices, unlike refurbished devices, generally do not have a performance guarantee, as you purchase the devices in the condition as-is. It might be worth it to shell out a bit more money for guaranteed protection.

Talk to your advisor about loaning or rental options on campus

Many campuses offer loan or rental services to allow students to borrow laptops, cameras, or other devices for a specific period of time. Contact your academic advisor or the campus's IT department to see if your college offers these services.

While these free or low-cost options are sound financially, they can be a hindrance in terms of availability and limited usage. These technologies are often in high demand for several classes. A limited number of devices might be available, resulting in waitlists or restricted borrowing periods.

Use the library

College libraries often provide technology resources that students can use on-site. The price of using these technologies is typically included in your cost of tuition, so it is best to use the devices you have already paid for.

But, these devices often have to stay within the confines of the library, restricting when and where you can access them. The limited availability of devices can also be inconvenient, especially during peak academic seasons when many students require access to technology simultaneously.

Preparing students for their future

The significance of affordable technology for college students cannot be overstated. As technology continues to play an increasingly crucial role in education, it has become essential for students to have access to affordable and reliable devices. The affordability of technology can be a pain point, as the costs associated with technology in higher education directly impacts a student’s ability to engage in online learning, access digital resources, and collaborate effectively with peers.

Affordable technology not only facilitates academic success but also fosters digital literacy and prepares students for the modern workforce, where technological proficiency is paramount in nearly every industry. By investing in affordable technology solutions and advocating for their accessibility, educational institutions and policymakers can empower college students, enhance their learning experiences, and contribute to a more equitable and technologically advanced society.

Ultimately, affordable technology serves as a catalyst for educational excellence, empowering students to reach their full potential and thrive in the digital age.

Miguel G.

Written by Miguel G.Sr. Tech Copywriter (US)

Miguel is always looking for new ways to provide unique perspective on popular tech and has taken his writing to the refurbished industry to promote sustainability. Outside of creating content, you might find him travelling the globe, coaching a fitness class, or cheering on his favorite sports teams (Go Dolphins!)

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