- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 29, 2005

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) - The College of William & Mary plans to require first-year students to buy laptop computers from the school.

Some Virginia colleges already require students to come to school with computers. However, William & Mary in the fall of 2006, will join a few others nationwide — including Wake Forest University and Northern Michigan University — that designate themselves as sole computer providers.

William & Mary administrators say the benefits will far outweigh the disadvantages of reducing student choice, including the fact that financial aid could cover the cost of buying a computer if it’s required by a university.

Officials also think having one standard computer will speed information technology services because technicians will be working on only one type of computer.

Gene A. Roche, director of academic information services, predicted that turn-around times for computer repairs could be reduced from one week to a day or two.

“For a student, it means you’re going to have that machine with you in the library, in the coffee shop, in the bookstore,” Mr. Roche said. “It’s going to be a machine that’s going to be supported. If you have problems, you’re going to be able to get it fixed quickly.”

Mr. Roche said the program also benefits professors making assignments because they will know every student has the capacity to use a CD-ROM or download a sound file.

“You won’t have students say to you, ‘I can’t do that. My computer cannot process that kind of file,’ ” he said.

Diana Oblinger, a vice president for Educause, a nonprofit organization that studies the use of technology on campuses, thinks such a program has many positives.

“For students who are not as advantaged, what it does is establish a level playing field so they have the same kind of technology as their peers do,” she said.

William & Mary’s program, known as MyNotebook, will phase in this fall, when the college will offer freshmen the option of buying a laptop, also known as a notebook computer, from the school.

It will become mandatorythe following fall. The college has yet to decide which model to use or how much to charge, Mr. Roche said.

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