UC Santa Barbara Associated Students launched a new loaner program, iPads for Equity, this August, allowing eligible students to temporarily check out iPads for educational use.
The program was launched by UCSB Thrive, a basic needs resource under Associated Students (A.S.), earlier this month. To be eligible, you must be an undergraduate UCSB student, enrolled in classes at least half-time — six units — and demonstrate financial need.
“iPads offer students another device option to engage with their academic work,” UCSB Basic Needs and Rapid Rehousing Manager Rebecca Segundo said in an email statement to the Nexus. “Research suggests that using iPads in an academic setting supports their learning experience and offers another medium for students to maximize their engagement.”
Currently, there are 80 iPads available for the summer quarter, with approximately 30 checked out as of Aug. 16. According to Segundo’s report, 200 iPads will be available for the fall.
Former A.S. Chief Operating Officer Michael Yang said having an iPad for class can make a huge difference academically. Yang pitched the idea for iPads for Equity last summer after he noticed other schools were offering iPad loaner programs, and he had just bought an iPad for his STEM classes.
“My note taking was a lot more efficient. And it was then that that also hit me that students would be potentially at a disadvantage if they don’t have an academic tool like this,” Yang said.
The first step for Yang and the A.S. Strategic Operations office was to prove this was a student demand to A.S. Senate. He said the project was presented at least four or five times. Before the loaner program, other basic needs technology programs extended to short-term loaner laptop devices, long-term loaner laptop devices and internet support grants.
Subsequently, in fall of 2022, the A.S. Strategic Operations office sent out a survey on student attitudes toward iPads. The results showed 92% felt iPads positively impacted their studies, and 43% agreed that not owning an iPad put them at a disadvantage.
Their research stipulated that 200 iPads would be the optimal number for students based on a total number of 400 loaner requests for other devices from the past year — a middle ground to test the program and meet student needs, Yang said.
iPads specifically were chosen as the tablet device because of Apple’s tablet market saturation, availability of various apple-supported platforms, ability to sync with other devices and quick accessibility to lecture content. An iPad 6 was chosen for cost-effectiveness and its display, battery life, durability and ability to sync with styluses.
The most difficult part of launching the program was locating a place to host the iPads, Yang said. The goal was to find an entity that wouldn’t have a high turnover rate like many student-run entities through A.S. Thus, Basic Needs was a fit for the program.
Another difficulty was finding a vendor to purchase the iPads from.
A refurbished iPad 6 typically costs around $210, which would have cost $42,000 for 200 units. After negotiations, Tech to School, a vendor that specializes in bringing technology to K-12 education, offered the devices for $125 each before tax.
Overall, the program cost nearly $35,000, with the iPads making up about $27,000 of that cost. Additionally, styluses, cases and pouches for the devices made up roughly $6,000 of the total. Other costs included stickers, Apple School Manager, which erases student data after a loan period is up and flyers.
Funding was pooled from various units of A.S. The A.S. Senate contributed a bulk $20,000, along with the Committee on Student Well-Being ($6,000), Human Rights Board ($5,000), the Public and Mental Health Commission ($2,500) and the Global Gaucho Commission ($3,500). The surplus of $2,000 in funding was redeposited to the senate account, Yang said.
This summer session acts as a test period for Basic Needs to learn how they’ll manage the loans in fall — if it will be a renewal process each quarter or dependent on a case by case basis. According to Segundo, at the end of the current term students who had received loaner iPads will have to return their devices and submit another form. She recommends students do not submit their request earlier than 10 days prior to the beginning of a term.
A version of this article appeared on p. 8 of the August 24, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.