Students who come from low income families can’t even dream of buying smartphones and other mobile devices like tablets and laptops but will this gap keep increasing? Will they always lag behind? These are questions of great importance.
“From an academic standpoint, not having access to technology can make basic communications, as well as research for projects, and even class discussions, more difficult. From meal plans and course registration to financial aid awards, everything is based on technology.” – Brittania Morey. Director of communications, Iowa College Access Network
The widening gap
These mobile devices seem to be creating an educational barrier of sorts. As technology has become such a huge part of education, without access to it, it will definitely be a huge drawback for students who can’t afford it. The need of these devices seems to be growing as higher education seems to be becoming more and more expensive and financial aid, limited, this problem will continue to increase.
“Providing adequate resources, including laptops or tablets, for low-income or Pell-eligible students can make the difference in helping a student become successful in the higher education arena.” - Wendy M. Wallace. Director of Student Support Services, Northern Arizona University
In the year 2010, a fund of $10 million was approved by the Congress, to finance a textbook rental programme so as to make college education affordable for students who come from low-income households. This concept moved Arlene Kreb, director of the Wireless Education & Technology Centre at California State University, Monterey Bay, to think that device rental too is possible. With lot of help and funds a rental store was incepted. This rental store allowed students to rent various kinds of technological devices like digital camera, iPads, laptops, scientific calculators, pocket projectors, etc. Students could rent out devices for an entire semester or even a day, depending on the use. It was noticed that a huge number of students were becoming reliant on rented laptops as they were necessities and helped out a lot in studies. These rentals just cost the students $120 each semester which was way cheaper than purchasing a brand new laptop.
Loaning out laptops is also an option but only a few avail of it, especially those who already own computers at home or have access to the library computer but need a laptop while travelling. These initiatives are huge stepping stones in bridging the digital gap.
By renting or loaning digital devices, slowly, even the students who come from low-income families will be able to access technological devices like all ‘privileged’ students. However, there might be a few problems with the payment of employees who work at the stores, etc. but this is definitely a positive step forward.