Monday, August 1, 2011

What if technology is just too expensive...

I spend a great deal of time describing what college students are bringing to campus. My surveys over the past few years have show dramatic growth in amount of technology being brought to campuses these days. First it was the desktop computer, then the laptop, most recently Smart Phones, and we are just seeing tablets make their arrival. This is all kind of exciting when you deal with tech all day, like I do. While we have seen students bringing tech to campus, the campuses have been adding lots of free tech in all sorts of places. Convenience is king.

You may have noticed in my last post that while freshmen are bringing lots of tech to campus, they still want more computer labs, free printing, more library computers, and even walk up computers in campus coffee shops or dining spaces. Some even ask for rental computers and tablets. It never seems to be enough.

Although most students are jumping on board and investing in lots of personal technology (at least at my campus), what if this is all just too much. What if you can barely afford to pay tuition and by or rent textbooks. Yes, students are now renting text books and saving. Check out or Google rent textbooks. Back to the story.

What if you are barely getting by and are trying to keep up. What do you absolutely need to survive on a college campus? Well not every campus offers free printing and printing is still hugely important. So I suggest saving a few cents for printing, but avoid commercial print shops. Most campus labs will allow you to print for 5 cents or less per page. So where else can you save?

My campus provides three open computers labs. These are labs with not scheduled classes. You can walk in and use most of the programs you need for free. When classes are not scheduled, say during late afternoon or early morning, many campus labs are open and available for walk-in use. The campus library is open an average of 16 hours per day and they have dozens of desktop computers for walk-up use. Check with the front desk, but most campuses have these and all you need is a valid network account which comes with your tuition. You should also see if you can check out a laptop or tablet at the circulation desktop. We have been loaning these for about 10 years. You can generally borrow a computer with all of the software for 2-3 hours, for free.

Does your campus have coffee shops? Our main coffee shop has about 10 desktop PCs for walk in use. Spend your money on a coffee. You can't print in the coffee shop, but you can do some work and save it to your network drive, cloud storage, or a thumb drive.

So what do you have to buy to stay competitive with technology? Well keep in mind that going cheap requires you to plan ahead and to be flexible, but it can be done. I suggest buying one thing. A thumb drive (or two for backup). You can buy these almost anywhere, but I just checked and you can buy a 16 gigabyte thumb drive for less than $17 at Amazon. This will hold every paper and assignment that you do over your four years of college, excluding video and audio recordings. Buy two and back-up often. These are easy to lose. Always have a backup tucked away at home.

This will allow you to go anywhere to work and to search for the cheapest printing. You can also save videos and music and you can play these back on the free computers with some inexpensive ear buds.

Now you know the frugal side of tech. College is expensive, but campuses make an awful lot of tech available for the price of tuition. Enjoy and save.

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