The cost of textbooks, parking passes and residence hall appliances are a few of the many expenses college students face when they head to school for the first time. 

The Earn-A-Computer program at Western Kentucky University aims to make sure a decent computer isn’t one of those financial burdens.

The program – a collaboration of WKU’s Student Government Association, Recycling and Surplus and WKU Information Technology – allows students a chance to earn a refurbished Apple computer by completing 35 hours of community service. 

“Our hope is that students who can’t afford a computer will see this as an opportunity to earn it,” said Murphy Burke, a student government spokeswoman. 

After finishing the hours, students can submit to SGA an application describing what they learned and why they need the computer. Once that’s done, the group can grant the student a desktop or laptop computer. Burke said there are 20 computers available. 

“They all have the most recent processing system, so these are very nice computers that the students are receiving that would normally cost a lot of money,” said Burke, a junior from Des Moines, Iowa. 

This is the program’s first semester and students are already showing interest. 

“Students have already been eager to complete the hours and earn a computer,” Burke told the Daily News. “I think I may have just received one.”

Walton senior Nathan Heath helps fix up the computers as a student worker. 

“Personally, I do believe it is a real need,” he said. “It’s one less worry for a college student.”

Heath said the university’s surplus computers are pretty easy to refurbish and turn over to students in need. He said the program is looking to expand from Apple products to include PCs. 

“A lot of students don’t have experience with Mac-based computer systems,” he said. “If they’re more comfortable with certain systems, we’d like to see that given to them.”

Without the program, Heath said the computers might be scrapped for pennies on the dollar. This way, they are put to good use. 

Steve Lancaster, a desktop support manager with WKU Information Technology, responded to the Daily News via voicemail.

“Those computers are beyond our support model, but they still have some life in them,” he said. “It’s mainly from a lifecycle standpoint and trying to be good stewards from an environmental standpoint.” 

Elizabeth Gafford coordinates resource conservation for WKU’s Department of Facilities Management. 

“Once it’s determined by IT that maybe the computer is too old and that model is no longer supported by IT, then they come to surplus,” she said. 

The program grew out of conversations about what should be done with those computers. 

“We saw that there is a need on campus for students to be able to buy personal computers affordably,” she said, adding computers are becoming more necessary for success in school. 

The volunteer work will also ultimately help students connect to the community, convincing them to stay and finish their degree, she said. 

“I think they have a greater sense of fulfillment when they’re rooted in their community,” she said. 

— For more information on the Earn-A-Computer program visit wku.edu/sga/initiatives/earn_a_computer.php.

— Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

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Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.

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