So You Want to Lease an iPad…
Photo courtesy of FHKE/Flickr
Schools are increasingly turning towards private companies to lease tablets and laptops for their students. Here are some important considerations to weigh before signing a lease.
What you need to know to finance a technology upgrade for your school.
By Aaron Stern

Computer labs are out, and programs that put laptops and tablets into the hands of every student – so-called one-to-one programs – are very in.

But these are expensive ventures, and in an era of historic budget shortfalls for school systems – many of which are so cash-strapped they can’t even afford wireless networks – the prospect of buying an iPad for hundreds of teenagers can seem far fetched at best.

Yet schools are increasingly finding ways to make it happen. Often it is through grants, other times it is through financing arrangements and many times it takes a combination of the two.

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There are a host of companies out there that work with schools to help them finance such projects. The same companies that make the equipment – Dell, Apple, HP, and so on – will help you finance those purchases, but so will a growing number of companies who specialize in leasing equipment to schools.

First American Education Finance is one of those companies. FAEF works with over 300 schools, colleges and universities to help them finance their education technology purchases (if you’d like to buy some chairs, they’ll talk to you about that too). We talked with FAEF’s Chad Wiedenhofer, Todd Benson and Joel Rogozinski about how schools are leasing their education technology and the pitfalls to avoid along the way.

Q: What types of education equipment are schools leasing the most right now? How are schools paying for them?

The most popular education technology investments right now are one-to-one laptop and iPad programs and the related infrastructure upgrades that they require, says Benson.

“Those types of projects involve a high degree of implementation costs,” says Benson.

Because of the restrictions tied to the public funds behind public school systems, FAEF works largely with private K-12 institutions as well as colleges and universities.

But as cash-strapped states look for more creative ways to fund their schools, Wiedenhofer says that they are increasingly looking to the private sector for financing solutions.

Q: How long are typical lease programs?

The ideal length of a lease program is the length of a manufacturers warranty, so usually two to three years, says Rogozinski. That time frame is also ideal because the technology is evolving so rapidly. Leases often include refresh plans so that at the end of the lease cycle schools get upgraded versions of their existing equipment. Schools can also use the breakneck pace of technological evolution – defined by Moore’s Law – to their advantage: Rogozinski says that, for instance, before Apple released its new iPad, schools were awaiting the unveiling and because they expected a subsequent drop in the price of iPad 2s that would enable them to acquire those older models at reduced rates. They were right.

Q: What factors determine the types of lease agreements that schools sign up for?

Regardless of which product a school or school system chooses, there are four major factors

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