Latriese Young (BSB/HR) worried that her plan to graduate in May was in jeopardy. She was just a few classes away from completing her associate degree when the March coronavirus outbreak disrupted her children’s education. Her 16 and 10-year-old’s classrooms were now her living room and her school laptop was now their laptop.
She tried managing access for all three by completing her assignments at night, but it became apparent that she may need to delay her education so that her children could finish theirs. Feeling defeated, Young contacted her academic counselor, who advised her to check her email for some good news — she was eligible for a laptop through the University’s refurbished laptop program.
Young was one of 200 students who received laptops as part of the program. In mid-March, the IT leadership team recognized that some students may have been impacted by the coronavirus and might not have adequate access to technology to academically support themselves and their families. The University responded by pulling together a cross-departmental team that worked to identify students who might have an immediate technology hardship.
Randy Lichtenfeld, senior vice president, Campus and Transition Services, said that the University works with ER2, a technology solutions company whose service offerings include refurbishing devices for resale, to recycle older laptops for newer models. This time, however, the University decided to donate refurbished laptops to students in need.
“We wanted to help students attend their online classes and support their families’ technology needs,” he said. “Free of charge and with no strings attached.”
Lichtenfeld said that the initiative was successful in part because of support from various departments across the University. While the University’s IT leadership team worked to collect laptops that had reached the end of their service and were scheduled to be exchanged for new ones, academic counselors, campus operations personnel, teams in the technical assistance center, financial services advisors and the social media team collaborated to identify and reach out to 300 students who might benefit from the program.
Students were contacted via email, and the first 200 to apply received refurbished laptops. While the initial plan was to support students struggling with technology challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the team discovered that a number of students who applied for the program were dealing with other life challenges. Typically these students could utilize local technology resources, like libraries or workplaces, but social distancing made any technology access road bump a greater challenge.
Asjia Stinson (BSB/HR) said her semester, and possibly her educational trajectory, may have been derailed without the refurbished laptop program. The business management student was midway through a math class when her laptop was damaged during a car accident. She initially tried to complete her work using her phone exclusively, but she needed a bigger screen.
Stinson said she was worried her education would be stifled completely without adequate technology. Like Young, she reached out to her academic counselor and was told about the initiative.
Stinson applied immediately and received her laptop shortly after. She said the program is another example of the University’s support to its students.
“I really appreciate how our school continues to be so helpful and understanding,” Stinson said. “I was going through a hardship and they stepped up to the plate.”
Young said she, too, is grateful for the timing of the program and that the University recognized that challenges exist outside of the classroom that can affect performance inside the classroom.
Through the support of the program, she was able to graduate in May with an associate degree and is continuing her education with UOPX, pursuing a bachelor’s degree next.
“I appreciate the concern University of Phoenix has for their students. Finding access to another laptop on my own had been nearly impossible,” Young said. “The laptop is so beautiful.”