Claremont Colleges expand technology loaning programs amid virtual semester

A black desktop mic with a stand. There is a sticker on the mic that reads "Pomona College."
The 5Cs are loaning equipment like laptops, headphones, web cameras, mics and printers to students scattered across the globe. (Ethan Diaz • The Student Life)

The 5Cs are continuing to loan technology like laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots and web cameras to ensure virtual classes are accessible to all students after responding to the immediate need when the 5Cs went online initially in March. 

In the spring, Pomona College sent around 80 loaned laptops and 75 hotspots to students, Joseph Briennan, Pomona’s director of support services, told TSL via email. Pomona mailed more than 80 additional laptops and 190 additional hotspots to students during the fall semester. 

At Claremont McKenna College, more than 185 students have received assistance with access to laptops, headphones, web cameras, computers and printers, CMC spokesperson Gilien Silsby said via email.

In addition to loaning laptops, CMC granted students on financial aid a “modest standard allowance in their cost of attendance budget to enhance Wi-Fi and or data plan coverage for hotspots,” Silsby said.

Diana Hernandez CM ’21 relied on CMC’s technology loaning program when her laptop suddenly stopped working during the fall semester. As a media studies double major completing her senior thesis, her work heavily relies on her laptop and the programs and software it runs.

“I reached out to one of the deans of students at CMC and told her that my laptop stopped working. She personally [messaged] me the form; I filled it out, and after a few days, [Information Technology Services] replied back. Within a week or so, CMC had given me a brand new laptop,” Hernandez said.

Harvey Mudd College had no criteria in place for who could loan technology. The college’s Institutional Research Department sent out a survey via email, faculty outreach and student forums to assess need and reach students, Joseph Vaughan, HMC’s chief information officer and vice president of computing and information services, said via email. 

“Our asset inventory shows nine loans out at the moment,” Vaughan said.  

While Scripps College would not give specific numbers, Scripps spokesperson Rachael Warecki said that every student who indicated a need for technology assistance “in terms of their ability to complete their academic coursework” received the resources they needed. 

Pitzer College distributed a total of 27 hotspots and 18 laptops to students, with the help of the Office of Information Technology and the dean of students and faculty, Pitzer Dean of Students Sandra Vasquez said via email. In addition to laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots, Pitzer students can also request noise-cancelling headphones or webcams.

“Faculty … by way of academic advising, identified students who may be in need of support,” Vasquez said. “We also partnered with Information Technology and faculty to provide access to faculty course-approved software for students … These triangulated efforts helped us further maximize laptop and hotspot resources for students.”

All five colleges have online forms that students can fill out to request technological assistance. However, some students reported that accessing this form has been a challenge. 

Spokespeople from all five colleges said they have been able to fulfill all student requests so far and that there have been few issues with the technology they have sent out. 

However, technology can come with its own set of unforeseen issues. 

After a fire affected the Wi-Fi connection in her area, Katherine Almendarez CM ’22 had to go to a friend’s house to access Wi-Fi and complete her assignments.

“In my case, we have Wi-Fi that we paid for through CMC funding, but sometimes it just turns off or shuts down completely,” Almendarez said. However, her professors have overall been accommodating when these kinds of issues arise, she said.

At Pomona, the majority of issues have been related to hotspots. 

“Sometimes they don’t work well in a particular area or the battery won’t charge anymore,” Brennan said. He added that Pomona also “saw some delays in international shipping due to customs delays in the receiving country.” 

Pitzer reported that although some students experienced difficulties, the college preemptively purchased additional laptops in case students cannot get repairs in a timely manner.

“We have been able to ship emergency laptops to these students experiencing these unexpected emergencies,” Vasquez said.

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