AC’s laptop-rental program addresses technological disparity among students

by Joe Wyatt
Published February 17, 2017

Amarillo College, aware that not all students enjoy equal home access to technology, is addressing the disparity by launching a new laptop-rental program intended to equip students with affordable computers.

Computer CenterhpThe new program will feature fully refurbished used laptops and be facilitated by the AC Bookstore. The first such rentals will coincide with the March 20th start of the second 8-week block of spring semester classes.

“It can definitely be a barrier to success when students don’t have the technology at home that they need,” said Andrew Flores, consumer electronics buyer for the AC Bookstore. “Our rental program will provide students with reliable, refurbished laptops at a very affordable cost, and we’re looking forward to doing that.”

Flores says the Bookstore will acquire laptops that have been discarded and/or replaced – both from within the College and elsewhere – and re-equip them with new memory and solid-state hard drives. Bookstore interns who are studying at AC to become computer programmers will perform the upgrades.

The cost to rent a laptop for the remainder of the spring semester will be $45, Flores said, and the cost for subsequent 16-week semesters will be around $60, he said.

“If students decide at the end of the semester that they want to buy their rented computer, we can do that, too, probably for around $199 retail,” Flores said. “We’ll even credit some of their rental fee to the purchase.”

The concept for the laptop-rental program sprang from a unique contest orchestrated by the AC administration – the Innovation Team Challenge. The AC workforce was divided into dozens of small teams containing diverse expertise. Each team was challenged with devising a fresh initiative the College might put into play in support of student success, with the winning idea, as determined by a community panel of judges, to be enacted.

The laptop idea was deemed best of all, and its enactment is imminent. The concept is the brainchild of team captain Flores and his Innovation Team Challenge teammates – Shannon Cornell, Macy Kohler, Kimberly McGowan, Tamara Rhodes, Michael Sugden and Eric Wallace.                                                                                                     

The winning team first learned of the need to make laptops more widely available from AC’s Advocacy & Resource Center (ARC), which has a limited number of laptops available for loan to students. Those laptops are in constant use, however, and there is always a waiting list of students in need. Those students henceforth will be steered to the AC Bookstore, where affordable options await.