Computers and Choosing a College

Universities are often considered to be the home of research and what is technically possible. Millions of dollars are poured in every day for advances in the different avenues of science, and ambitious students make their names working on enormous research projects while working under the supervision and guidance of professors who often have decades of experience in their given field.

Based on this, most people would assume the computer systems at these universities would be the ultimate example of what can be done if money is thrown in the right direction. They would assume that security is top-notch, that an official university wireless network can be found anywhere on the campus, that there would be more than enough computers and computer labs to cover the amount of students who need them, and that the printing system would simply work.

However, this isn’t the case in several universities.

According to collegeprowler.com, at many universities there are huge lines for computers that are almost ten years old, and have become so slow and fragile that simply opening a writing program such as Microsoft Word causes the system to hang for minutes on end. At many universities, printers sit with papers that say “out of order” posted on them for months on end. Viruses sweep the computer networks, destroying any computer they touch. Internet access is unavailable in residence halls, or classrooms, or even anywhere on campus. For example, University of Wyoming and Ferris State University both have major roadblocks with wireless internet access in residence halls because the halls are made out of brick, which blocks the wireless signal.

I bring this up because for many juniors and seniors, college is right around the corner. Most universities start classes in August, and graduation for us is in May this year. Five months may sound like a long time on paper, but it’s often quite the opposite in real life, which means time is rapidly decreasing for college research. In my opinion, it’s important to have a university which is forward-thinking in the technology department, and which can adapt to the latest advances without pouring immense amounts of money and time into a poor attempt at doing so (such as a wireless network which can barely ever be connected to, for example). Perhaps a university which innovates in this field is even of the utmost importance.

However, all is not lost. One particular innovator in the technological field is a relatively unknown public university located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, known as Northern Michigan University. Every student who attends receives a brand new laptop every three years as part of tuition, and all programs required for classes (such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Word, for example) are provided by the university free of charge. Internet access is always, always available; and in fact, the university offers what’s known as a WiMAX system, which is able to provide wireless internet access to the whole of the county. The university’s technological advantages are so great that in February of 2011, President Obama delivered a speech on the campus about how the rest of the country needs to look at Northern Michigan University as an example for forward-thinking.

Luckily, more universities with good computer systems exist. Arizona State University has massive computer labs; the aforementioned University of Wyoming, while not necessarily having the best wireless network in the world, does offer dual monitors on the computers in its computer labs, improving efficiency. Grand Valley State University offers free printing in its computer labs, as well as multiple wireless networks and security measures to prevent people who aren’t students from accessing them.

Hopefully when it comes time to make your college decision, you will take the university’s computer system into account. An excellent website to research this information is collegeprowler.com, which compiles reviews of universities from actual students and grades the universities in several areas, including computers. It is an excellent resource, and one that should not be ignored.