The University of Minnesota’s Office of Information Technology program offering lower-priced laptops to students has experienced fluctuating sales since it began.
The program sold 190 student laptops in its first year and 323 in the following year, but sales have since fallen to 263.
OIT started offering certified laptops to students in 2009, in collaboration with vendors like Dell, to develop computer bundles compliant with the University’s security standards.
The machines offered through the program are mostly Dell and Lenovo laptops that come with Microsoft Office and antivirus software, along with a three-year warranty with accidental damage coverage.
The Dell models are sold in the University Bookstore in Coffman Union with prices between $998 and $1,218, saving students between $641 and $689.
But bookstore sales for the OIT laptops have been disappointing compared to expectations when the laptops first went on sale, said University Bookstores President Bob Crabb.
“It’s not a big seller for us,” he said.
Crabb said Apple laptops outsell the Dell devices by about 10 times in the bookstore.
The University’s bookstore has worked with freshman orientation programs, various student programs and OIT to promote the laptop packages, he said.
“It’s not for a lack of trying,” Crabb said.
Many students come to the University with laptops already, and the high number of laptop retailers nearby may be a reason for the low OIT certified laptop sales, he said.
“I’m just not sure [students] understand what a good deal that Dell package is,” he said.
Paul Honsey, a manager in OIT technical support, said many of the OIT certified laptops are also purchased online through UMart.
Overall laptop sales through the program decreased by 18 percent in the last school year, which Honsey attributed to laptop vendors updating their laptop models later than usual –– something OIT hopes to avoid this year.
Retailers like Micro Center in St. Louis Park , Minn., sell Dell and Lenovo laptops in price ranges between $249.99 and $349.99, and customers can extend their warranty to three years for an additional $79.99, Micro Center spokesperson Ed Lukens said.
But despite cheaper alternatives, Honsey said OIT’s laptops are configured to fit students’ needs on campus and offer a higher level of service to those computers because the configuration allows Tech Stop to provide faster service.
“I had hoped the program would have been more popular,” Honsey said, “It’s not great as a percentage of the students that come to the University each year, but it’s still a fairly large number of laptops [sold],” he said.
“Are the students seeing value in this? That’s the question we need to answer,” Honsey said.
He said OIT is looking to communicate more with students and other colleges to determine their needs and provide better service within the program next year.
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