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Spring Housing Guide

University has ways to curb costs of technology

Faced with a difficult class schedule and a tightening bank account, University student Emily Carson had to choose between raiding her checking account for $500, or risk failing her first major assignment of the semester.

Traveling to a Best Buy electronics store in Toledo, the visual communication technology major searched a rack of digital camcorders for one with the precise requirements of a class project due two days later. Frustrated when she couldn’t find the camera she needed, Carson fumed.

“Even if I can find it, how am I supposed to afford equipment like this?” Carson said.

As the time to register for Fall 2006 courses approaches at the end of March, students in a number of majors must look beyond just the publicized increased costs of housing and tuition, and consider what technology costs they will incur within the classroom.

For students like Carson in fear of being put in a financial pinch, the University offers services designed to narrow the gap between course requirements and dwindling cash.

Norm Bedford, associate director of the Student Financial Aid Office, estimated the average student pays $1,140 per year on books and supplies. Bedford arrived at this figure based on a Fall 2004 survey of 500 students through MyBGSU.

This amount determines the limit of financial aid a student can receive for class materials.

Between her camera, recordable DVDs to backup her recordings and the software to render them, Carson said the cost of her supplies could rival that amount before she even steps foot in the bookstore.

“With a lot of little things on top of big ticket items, it adds up very quickly,” Carson said.

In situations like Carson’s, where the estimated amount doesn’t meet a student’s needs, Bedford encourages people to file a special consideration application with Student Financial Aid.

On the two-page form, students are asked to detail their needs and circumstances. This allows Bedford to determine if an increase to a student’s financial aid package is appropriate and possible within the University’s budget.

“Usually we can accommodate them,” Bedford said.

Bedford said situations like Carson’s are not unique. He typically sees 15 to 20 of the two-page forms each year.

“I see some very reasonable requests, and some that are not at all realistic,” Bedford said.

For students whose legitimate needs exceed the capability of the financial aid office, or those with looming due dates like Carson, the Student Technology Center offers another way to keep the cost of course equipment from skyrocketing.

Kim Fleschman, director of the Student Technology Center, said the center is capable of fulfilling many of the expensive equipment demands placed on students without them paying a cent out of pocket.

Emulated by other Ohio colleges, the center provides students with camera, video, sound and light kits worth up to $1,200 at no charge. Students are required to return the kits to the center in the Saddlemire Building after three days, though they are free to check the equipment out again if it hasn’t been reserved.

Jeff McManamon said he found himself making weekly trips to the center this semester to rent a still camera kit for his photography class.

The sports management major had no long-term interest in photography, so he preferred the frequent trips across campus to the cost of investing in his own equipment.

“I can not afford to drop $200 on something I do not want or need,” McManamon said.

Carson knew the equipment service existed, but worried the equipment would be in poor condition and only add to her heightened level of stress.

“I was warned by friends and professors that the equipment you rent there has a lot of wear and tear,” Carson said.

Carson recalled an incident in a previous class where an instructor borrowed a sound kit from the center only to find pieces missing. The professor’s frustration with the incomplete kit left an impression on Carson.

“I can not turn in something late because the microphone I rented did not have a cord, we are taught to be prepared for that,” Carson said.

Fleschman defended the integrity of the center’s kits, saying the equipment is checked each time it is returned, and students are fined for any damaged or missing parts.

Aside from the possible condition of the equipment available for her to borrow, Carson said she believed the benefits of having her own camera outweighed the financial toll.

“I will learn how to do everything more quickly if I have my own camera to mess around with,” Carson said. “It will be around whenever I need it, if I can ever find one.”

The day after her fruitless trip to Toledo, Carson found the help she needed from a more familiar source.

“I called my mom to let her know I had no luck in Toledo, and she told me not to worry about it, she was already on her way,” Carson said.

Driving 160 miles from North Canton to Bowling Green, Shelley Carson delivered a brand-new camera to her daughter with 16 hours remaining to complete the assignment.

Acknowledging not all parents can afford to offer the same assistance, the student’s mother felt obligated to do so.

“I’ve always said her only job in college is being a student,” Shelley Carson said. “It’s worth me investing in the equipment if it helps her do the best job she can.”

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