College Saving Hack: How to Get a Free Laptop From the Government
College can be expensive. But you might be able to get a cheap or free laptop to make it easier.
October 21, 2022
For many people, going to college is part of a lifelong dream. A college degree can open up new employment opportunities, especially for individuals who come from low-income families.
At the same time, the high cost of college can make it difficult to simply buy the supplies you need for your classes. According to Best Colleges, three out of every 10 American adults take on debt to pay for college — with the average student loan borrower owing $28,950.
Every little bit you can do to avoid or reduce the cost of college can be a great stress reliever and improve your financial situation, especially if you’re paying for college without the help of parents or guardians. Thankfully, some students may be eligible for a free laptop from the government and various nonprofits. If you need help paying for a laptop for college, these programs can make a big difference.
Here’s how to get a free laptop from the government or a nonprofit organization so you can make college a little more affordable.
How to get a free laptop from the government
While 100% free government laptops aren’t really a thing, if you need help buying a laptop for school, the government’s Affordable Connectivity Program is a good place to start. This program offers financial assistance to make it easier for low-income households to afford internet service and internet-accessible devices.
Households that qualify through this program could receive a monthly discount on internet service. The discount is up to $30 per month, up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. A one-time voucher that offers a discount of up to $100 off the purchase of a computer, laptop or tablet is also available. This voucher comes with a copay that ranges from $10 to $50.
Eligibility criteria is largely determined based on your household income or your participation in other government aid programs.
If your household income is 200% or less than the Federal Poverty Level Guidelines based on the size of your household, you would qualify for the program.
You also qualify automatically if your household already participates in other government assistance programs — such as SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, or the FCC’s Lifeline program — or if you have received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year.
In addition, individuals who live on Tribal lands qualify if they are part of a Tribal Assistance Program like Head Start or Tribal TANF.
Finally, if a household’s dependents qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch programs or attend a USDA Community Eligibility Provision school, you will be eligible.
You can apply for the voucher on the Affordable Connectivity Program website. You may need to submit a benefit letter or proof of participation in other government benefits programs.
While the government won’t necessarily give you a free laptop, you can also check out other government assistance programs, such as federal government grants and scholarships through benefits.gov that are specifically designed to help students from low-income households pay for college. Grants and scholarships can help cover the cost of tuition and other major expenses so you have more money to spare to buy a laptop.
How to get a free laptop from a nonprofit
In addition to the government’s program, there are several nonprofits or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that can help low-income families and individuals who need a laptop for college.
Eligibility requirements, cost and application forms can vary. Some give away laptops, while others offer them at discounted prices. By combining the government voucher with one of these programs, you can save a lot.
Here is a quick rundown of some leading nonprofits that provide discounted or free tablets, laptops and computers.
Technology For the Future
Technology For the Future offers refurbished and new laptops to students and families in need. Their efforts to create digital equity have helped over 20,000 students to date. Their online application is quick and easy to fill out. It simply asks for your name and contact information, gives space where you can share extra details about your situation and allows you to request a laptop/device grant or scholarship.
The On It Foundation
The On It Foundation provides free computers for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade. This is a program students and their families need to apply for before they’re actually in college.
Parents must submit an application letter with information about the student and proof of their participation in a free or discounted school lunch program at a public school in the United States. You can get more details about the letter through their official website.
Freecycle offers a unique town-based approach to finding free laptops, iPads and other tech gadgets. After creating a free account, you “join” towns in your area. You can then post about the items you need. If someone has it, they can reach out to you and arrange a pickup time and place. They get rid of unwanted tech, and you get what you need for free. Think of it as a free, technology-focused version of Craigslist.
Give IT Get IT
Formerly the Computer Technology Assistance Corps (CTAC), Give IT Get IT provides low-cost laptops and IT support for individuals and other nonprofits. Their application asks for your household income, what goal you’re working toward (such as a college degree) and other basic information.
Their application also lets you choose a computer system that meets your needs. So if you specifically want a Dell or an Apple MacBook, you can hopefully get set up with the right device. Program costs range from $95 to $390, depending on the type of computer system you select, and there are charges for additional system upgrades, but you can have a sponsor cover your fees.
PCs for People
Part of the Microsoft Registered Refurbishers program, PCs for People offers refurbished laptop computers starting at $100. Free standard shipping is available for all orders.
To date, PCs for People has distributed 190,000 computers. To qualify to shop in their store, you must provide a photo ID, and either proof that you are enrolled in an income-based government program or that your household income is under 200% of the federal poverty level or 60% of your area’s median income.
The Alliance for Technology Refurbishing & Reuse provides a map that shows various technology-related NGOs located across the country. While not all of these programs provide laptops to college students, this can be a great way to find free or refurbished computers for low-income individuals in your area.
For example, SmartRiverside focuses specifically on improving technology and internet access for people in Riverside, California.
Everyone On is another online resource that can help you find providers of low-cost internet, devices and digital literacy training in your local area. Rather than a map, their website has users search by zip code. It may be worth typing in a few different zip codes in your area to see if discounted laptops are available nearby.
Finally, it may also be helpful to check out your local Goodwill, United Way, Salvation Army community center, mayor’s office or other community service organizations.
Get a no- or low-cost laptop for school
As this list shows, there are a wide range of discounted or free laptop programs that can help you get an affordable computer for college — even while you’re still in high school. Getting a free computer through one of these assistance programs is a great way to save on higher-education expenses.
Check out the qualifications and the application process to determine your eligibility for these programs.
If credit card debt is making it hard to afford college, Tally† may be able to help. Tally offers a low-interest line of credit that allows you to combine your higher-interest credit card bills into a single payment. By paying down your debt, you’ll free up money for college expenses.
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.