UT-Austin offers limited laptop checkout services to students

Tehreem Shahab

UT offers options to check out laptops for students who cannot afford one or whose equipment is being repaired, but resources are limited and vary within each college.

The McCombs School of Business, the College of Education and the School of Architecture offer laptop checkout services to their students and those taking their courses. McCombs has about 50 laptops available to checkout two nights a week for its 5,000 students.

The College of Education has 20 laptops available, but they cannot be checked out overnight. The college also requires laptops for students entering the professional development program for future teachers, said Ryan Baldwin, the College of Education’s director of information technology. If a student cannot afford a laptop, the requirement allows them to receive financial aid to help them buy one, Baldwin said.

It’s a similar case for the School of Architecture. They have a dozen laptops available for checkout for 700 architecture students.

“We want to make sure that since we ingrained those laptops in the way we do our courses and our curriculum, the students can keep working if they’re having hardware trouble,” said Eric Hepburn, the School of Architecture’s director of information technology.

A comprehensive laptop checkout service for all students has yet to become available. Computer labs are available for UT students, faculty and staff in the Perry-Castañeda Library as well as other University libraries. The PCL had 30 Dell laptops available for checkout, but the service was discontinued in 2007, said Chris Carter, PCL’s director of organizational effectiveness. 

“The reason we stopped was the cost to purchase and maintain the laptops and the inability to scale the service,” Carter said in an email. “Inevitably almost everyone who wanted to check out a laptop was disappointed since they were generally all checked out early in the day by a core group of regular users.” 

Susan Roy, director of customer support for the Flawn Academic Center’s Information Technology Services, said the FAC discontinued its computer lab in 2017 because computers were aging and there was no funding to replace them.

Roy said she has heard some complaints about no longer having a computer lab and said she has met with the Campus Computer Store to look into the possibility of having a laptop checkout program.

“In the meantime, we’re trying to figure out ways to do that without spending new money through the University,” Roy said.