Students without computers rank among digital minority

Kansas University students pack into a computer work room in Anschutz Library. Like textbooks, personal computers have become a staple academic item at universities across the country.

A student takes a break from working on a computer Monday in the Budig Hall Computer Lab.

Computers are almost as plentiful as Jayhawks at Kansas University – you find them in classrooms, in labs, in dorm rooms and apartments.

But if you’re a KU student, can you get by without getting your own computer?

The answer is yes.

“We do not require a computer. : People do come to KU without computers,” said Allison Rose Lopez, public relations and marketing manager for KU Information Services. “But they’re in the great minority now.”

She said only about 5 percent of students who live on campus at KU do not have their own computer. She said she was unable to determine how many students who live off campus don’t have their own computer.

But it is possible to get by without a personal laptop or desktop computer, she said.

That’s because the Lawrence campus offers 20 public computer labs – and another five labs on the Edwards Campus in Overland Park.

Lopez said many of the professional schools at KU, such as engineering or architecture, have computer labs and provide students with specialized software. There are also computers available for students to use in residence halls, she said.

Most students prefer to own a computer, says Andy Stein, who sells computers at the Tech Shop in the KU Bookstore.

That’s because many classes require students to access the Internet to retrieve homework assignments or turn in homework, Stein said.

Most students are deciding to go ahead and buy a computer when they arrive at KU, he said.

The bookstore sells computers at educational discounts.

Stein estimated that a student could get a laptop through KU, plus software, for about $1,600. Over four years, that would amount to $200 a semester, he said.

“Just about everybody does have their own computer,” he said.

Lopez said the type of computer hardware and software that a student will need varies on the student’s degree.

“Each person will want different things,” she said. “It’s a combination of their needs and their interest when buying.”