Fall 2020 incoming freshmen at Morehouse College will receive free computers thanks to a partnership with Microsoft (Photo Credit: Todd A. Smith/Regal Media Group).
Morehouse College to Give Laptops to Incoming Freshmen
With some assistance from the tech company Microsoft, Morehouse College has pledged to give free laptop computers to incoming freshmen this fall.
Incoming freshmen at the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in Atlanta will receive Microsoft Surface tablets.
The Microsoft Surface has a dual purpose as a laptop and a tablet.
The school made the announcement on April 25 during Morehouse’s “Virtually Admitted-Students Day” on YouTube.
Having a personal computer has become a necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic because many students have to learn virtually instead of the usual physical classroom setting.
The Microsoft-Morehouse College partnership came about as a result of Morehouse President David A. Thomas wanting to bridge the digital divide in which people without the means for Internet access find themselves falling behind academically and businesswise.
Nearly half of households earning less than $30,000 have no computers in the home.
In a press release, Thomas said, “We are grateful to Microsoft for partnering with us to help level the playing field in technology for our new students. The digital divide is another battlefield in the fight for social justice because it is directly linked to income disparities between racial groups. Black and Brown families are at the lowest rungs of the household income scale.”
Ninety percent of Morehouse College students qualify for financial aid, so the Microsoft initiative will help parents and students “be prepared for a successful transition to college.”
Morehouse College has an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students.
The private, all-male Morehouse College has enrolled around 600 new students for the 2019-20 school year.
In a press release, Morehouse College said, “Students of historically Black colleges or universities are more likely to be impacted by what is known as the digital divide, the gap between those who have access to the Internet and technology necessary for homework assignments and those who do not.”
Fred Humphries, vice president of government affairs at Microsoft said in a written statement, “Microsoft is extremely proud to partner with Morehouse College to provide the technology that can bridge the digital divide that has too often stood between students and access to information and education.
“We are excited to work with the newest men of Morehouse as they enter the institution and look forward to seeing the impact they can make on their communities and the world.”
Bridging the digital divide is also important for Thomas because he believes that it is too soon to reopen Georgia despite Georgia Governor Brian Kemp rebuking President Donald Trump and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ desire to reopen later.
Georgia has reopened much of their economy despite many critics saying that the decision will adversely affect the African-American community.
Morehouse College will not reopen while the pandemic is still threatening the lives of Atlanta citizens.
In an op-Ed for CNN.com, Thomas wrote, “What’s clear to me is that Morehouse would endanger its students, faculty and staff by resuming in-person instruction while the pandemic still poses a serious threat. We will not take that risk. Our decision is one that prioritizes the health and welfare of our campus community—and…one…that will not be influenced by politics.
“In late February and early March, colleges and universities nationwide made the decision to send students away from campuses and move instruction online. It was a collective effort to save our higher education communities from the threat of the novel coronavirus.
“Inviting faculty, staff, and students back to campus without widespread testing and a vaccine at the ready could unnecessarily put the lives of people in danger and devastate some institutions financially.”
Thomas said that some schools have already closed permanently because of the COVID-19 pandemic like Urbana University in Columbus, Ohio.
Some students have even contemplated not returning to campus until things are safer for them with the coronavirus spreading rapidly in some areas.
Many students will have to make a decision on whether to return to college or not based on the finances of their parents.
Countless parents have been laid off or furloughed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Therefore, paying college tuition will become even more difficult.
At HBCUs, the stress of paying for college has always presented a challenge.
Now, remote learning, for those wishing to continue their matriculation through college, will become even harder with the need to have computer and Internet access in the home.
Because HBCUs are tuition driven, and many do not have lucrative endowments and wealthy donors, some HBCUs might suffer the same fate as Urbana University.
Furthermore, many of the nation’s 101 HBCUs will suffer budget losses because of canceled summer camps and programs and refunds from room-and-board now that students have sheltered off campus.
Thomas said that HBCUs would share $1 billion in federal aid money to help colleges survive during the coronavirus pandemic.
Regardless if people return to campus or stay at home, Morehouse College and Microsoft are determined that the digital divide does not deter students destined for a college degree.