SES laptop loan program ends, but NU Libraries offers similar program


Noah Frick-Alofs/The Daily Northwestern

A Dell laptop given out by SES. SES said it terminated its laptop loan program for a number of reasons, including limited staffing capacity, structure and management of expensive equipment.

Andres Correa, Reporter

After three years of providing free laptop loans to first-generation and low-income students, Student Enrichment Services ended its laptop loan program before the start of this school year — but a similar program from Northwestern University Libraries provides laptop loans to students regardless of socioeconomic status.

The SES program, which began in the winter of 2015, provided undergraduate students with 15 to 25 laptops for short-term loans to students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds.

The program ended for a number of reasons, including limited staffing capacity, structure and management of expensive equipment, SES Director Kourtney Cockrell said in an email. In addition to internal issues, Cockrell said the office noticed an increase of requests for laptop loans from both undergraduate and graduate students who were just above the low-income threshold.

“It is important to remember that not only low-income students need laptops,” Cockrell said. “Many students fall just above the low-income cut-off, and thus have financial need as well.”

Despite the removal of the program, NU Libraries began a pilot laptop loan program this past fall. The program came out of awareness for the need of laptops to serve the University community, Clare Roccaforte, the director of marketing and communications for NU Libraries, said in an email.

The new program currently provides 10 laptops — available for quarter-long loans and the summer — for undergraduate graduate students. It also provides all students and faculty seven-day loans for a separate 10 laptops. Unlike the SES laptop loan program that prioritizes laptops for low-income and first-generation students, the library’s program operates on a first-come-first-serve basis –– just like all other library loans.

While the library’s program and SES serve to provide the same resource, they are separate, Roccaforte said.

“Our program developed independently of their work,” Roccaforte said. “It’s possible that the start of our program may have influenced their decision to end their program.”

While SES will no longer manage the laptop loan program, it will continue to manage the Querrey Laptop Grant Program. The program provides free laptops for low-income and first generation students to keep, even after graduation. In the past two years, the program distributed between 200 and 250 laptops for students in the class of 2021 and 2022, Cockrell said.

“These laptops are their computers to keep forever, and part of the goal of this program is to prevent the need for loaners by giving students laptops as they matriculate to Northwestern,” Cockrell said.

Such programs that provide technological assistance to low-income students are important to those like McCormick sophomore Abednego Kipkirui, who had to spend his first two weeks of college completing his assignments on his phone or at the library. Through SES’ laptop grant program, Kipkirui was given a laptop for academic purposes.

“I am a computer engineer, and I was really hoping to have my own laptop to do work on my own,” Kipkirui said. “It’s much more portable. When you are traveling and let’s say you’re going back home, it’s nice to have a laptop of your own.”

This story was updated to clarify that the NU Libraries pilot program loans laptops to both undergraduate and graduate students. 

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