Seton Hill University was one of the first schools to announce (way back in March, before the iPad was available) that it would give iPads to all of its students.
The Pennsylvania school is also the first to have one of its students arrested, after he failed to return his iPad and MacBook after quitting school early. Freshman Michael Sellers was issued an iPad and 13-inch MacBook with a total value of $1,700 when he started in August, in exchange for an upfront $500 technology fee.
When Sellers left school after a month or two, however, the school asked for the iPad and MacBook back – and then sicced the police on him when he failed to respond.
As a Seton Hill professor explains, the $500 fee didn”t cover the entire cost of the gear – the rest is amortized over the duration of the student’s time at Seton Hill. In other words, “They can take the new computer with them when they graduate, but until then, the laptops are just loaners. All this is clearly spelled out in the school’s promotional materials and the contract the student signs when picking up the equipment.”
Ahh, the fine print, which understandably an 18-year-old might overlook…that led to the police coming to Sellers, who told them he no longer had his iPad and MacBook (did he Craigslist them?).
Sending the police still seems a little harsh – why arrest Sellers rather than bill or sue him in small claims court? Unless he was meant to serve as an example.
On the other hand, Seton Hill’s sort of lease-to-own arrangement is pretty common in the tech space. It’s like when you buy the latest Android smartphone from Verizon for just $199 – the low cost is subsidized by the two-year contract you also sign that guarantees huge profits for the carrier.
Those who upgrade or replace their phones before the two years are up must pay a financial penalty proportional to how long he or she used the phone.
This sort of lease-to-own arrangement appears to be growing in popularity. Take North Bay Haven Charter Academy in Panama City, Florida. North Bay is deploying iPads to its students. But knowing that many students and parents might have trouble paying for the $600 cost (iPad plus case plus insurance), the school is letting them pay $17 a month or $150 a year until their child graduates.