* Consumer Electronics Association news release on graduation gifts
* Information Technology at Purdue

April 11, 2007

Best buys in grad gifts might be found at the university


Before buying a computer, iPod or other technology gift for a student about to head off to college, consider shopping in one more location: the university itself.Many colleges and universities have special educational discounts on items such as computers, printers and software. An additional benefit is that shopping through the university helps ensure that your high-tech purchase is compatible with technologies used at the institution.

John Campbell, associate vice president for information technology at Purdue University, says that most incoming freshmen arrive on campus with a new computer and that a significant number of those are graduation gifts.

"What is disappointing to everyone is when a student realizes that the new computer they just received a few months earlier wasn't the best deal or the best fit for their situation," he says.

The Consumer Electronics Association estimated that in 2006, $2.1 billion was spent on electronic graduation gifts for the nation's approximately 6 million high school graduates. According to the association's research, nearly one-fourth of the students were hoping to receive a computer.

Many universities offer discounts to students - including incoming students - as well as to faculty, staff and, sometimes, alumni.

"You can reap these savings because you are taking advantage of the buying power of the institution," Campbell says. "Major colleges and universities buy thousands of computers each year, and so do their students. By pooling these purchases together, everyone is able to save money."

Purchasing a computer through a university can mean more than just getting a good price, however. Campbell says the worst thing that could happen would be to buy a computer that the student can't use at their school or for their major. 

"If you are purchasing a computer for a high school senior who will be entering college in the fall, it's important that you check to see if the college has requirements for computers," he says. "Many universities or departments do. Although the majority of academic departments don't specify a preference, there are departments that suggest students not bring Apple computers, for example, while there are other departments that require them. This is something that you will want to know before you buy."

Most U.S. universities offer some type of discount on computers. At Purdue, through a partnership with the IT company CDW-G, students and staff can purchase computers at a discount, as well as peripherals such as printers, storage devices and digital music players.

"Often these computers come preloaded with software that is used on campus or come preconfigured to connect with the campus networks, such as the wireless network," Campbell says. 

In addition to savings, Campbell says there are other advantages to buying from a university.

"Often there is on-site support and service, which is convenient because you don't have to package your computer up and ship it off somewhere if there is a problem," he says.

Purdue's program, called the Mobile Learning Initiative, sells laptop computers and tablets from HP and Apple. Only three models are offered, which Campbell says makes selection and service easier.

"It's quite intentional that we have limited choices," he says. "This allows us to specify the best machine for most students while still offering a significant price discount.

"There are also advantages to having the same machine as your classmates. If you are having a problem, it is much easier to lean over and see how someone is getting it done if you are using the same computer and software as they are."

Educational discounts on software packages can be even more substantial than the discounts on hardware. At Purdue, for example, students can purchase Microsoft Office Pro Academic Edition, which retails for $179.99, for $15, or Macromedia Studio 8, which retails for $999, for $147.

With educational discounts on software, discounts on upgrades usually aren't part of the deal.

"This really isn't anything to worry about," Campbell says. "Usually the discounted price is so low that even with paying to purchase the software again to get the upgrades it's still well worth it."

Writer: Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809,

Source: John Campbell, (765) 494-1289,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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