An Apple MacBook with a Bowdoin College sticker. Courtesy of Bowdoin College

All Bowdoin College students will be given free laptop computers and tablets this fall.

The Digital Excellence Commitment initiative is designed to level the academic playing field among students by creating equal access to costly technological resources. Each student will receive an iPad mini tablet with a stylus and a 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop equipped with access to academic software.

In an interview with The Times Record on Wednesday, Bowdoin College President Clayton Rose said that the initiative will have no direct impact on the cost of tuition and that students can buy the equipment for a dollar after graduating.

“For us, it became just very clear that in order to continue to provide a great Bowdoin education and to do it in a way that is equitable for all of our students, having access to these digital tools was an essential aspect of that,” Rose said.

Need for these resources became particularly apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rose said, and this week’s announcement builds on a 2020 initiative by the college, where every student was given an iPad in light of the switch to remote learning.

The program is in partnership with Apple Inc. and will be paid for through the college’s operating budget. Service costs for the products will also be covered by Bowdoin.


During the 2021-22 school year, the comprehensive fee — which includes the cost of tuition and room and board — at Bowdoin was $74,220. About half of students received need-based financial aid. The average family contribution after financial aid stood at $19,292.

A study published in 2017 by The New York Times stated that the median family income of a student from Bowdoin was $195,900.

At the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year, which goes from July 1 to June 30, the market value of Bowdoin College’s endowment was $2.71 billion.

According to Apple’s website, student pricing for a 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,199. An iPad mini starts at $449 and an Apple Pencil 2nd Generation starts at $129. Bowdoin College spokesperson Doug Cook said that the program will cost the college approximately $1.5 million a year.

Cook added that the initiative will also save the college considerable space to the extent existing computer labs are repurposed, ultimately increasing the number of classrooms that are available.

There are about 1,950 students enrolled at Bowdoin College this year. Many students come to the college with a computer, Rose said, although it may be old or lacking the necessary power or memory to run necessary software.


This initiative, Rose said, gives students the ability to collaborate in a way that is more flexible than a computer lab since it can be accessed at home, in a dorm room or in a classroom.

Sophomore Cassidy Bateman, 19, of Montana came to Bowdoin College with a personal laptop from high school, which she uses, in part, for chemistry software. She is the president of college’s QuestBridge chapter, a national program that helps provide resources to low-income students.

“There’s a lot of students in that program who came to the school and the only thing that they had was the school-issued iPad … and if they need a computer, they have to go into the library during their hours, which I mean, as you know, college students aren’t always doing all of their homework between nine to five,” Bateman said. “So, I’m really excited for those people specifically that they will have access to a computer now and they won’t have to plan ahead as much to make sure they get to the computer lab on campus.”

Rubin Jones, 21, a senior at Bowdoin from Arkansas said Thursday that he came to the college as a first year student with an iPhone and a new MacBook. He, too, thinks the program will level the playing field immensely, citing fellow students who in the past scrambled over the summer to save enough money for a MacBook.

“Now looking back on it there was no conceivable way I could have gone through my time at Bowdoin without the technology I have,” Jones said. “The ability to work from my room, in a classroom, in a group project, at home with COVID, with my own personal device — it wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity.”

Jones added, however, that he was disappointed the initiative wouldn’t extend to seniors, one reason being that the graduating class frequently needs to buy new computers after four years of wear and tear.

“I know it would be really nice to have that burden lifted off of our shoulders, just as incoming students are going to have that burden lifted too,” Jones said. “I understand we won’t be official Bowdoin students anymore, but I think that it would still be nice to see the college take care of its seniors and send us off as well prepared to go into the workforce or higher education as much as possible.”

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