District CIOs looking to save money on computers are increasingly turning to refurbished technology. Buying preowned equipment puts more devices in the hands of students and keeps old machines out of landfills.
Administrators at Spencer Technology Academy, a school of 900 K8 students in Chicago Public Schools, wanted to create a 1-to-1 program for middle school math. But the district could not afford to spend $24,000 on 30 new iPads. Instead, administrators purchased 30 refurbished, second-generation iPads for $7,000. They also purchased 10 used MacBooks for $6,000—saving about $10,000.
“It’s definitely more bang for your buck,” says lead technology teacher Tracey Howse. New equipment that is shared between many students undergoes so much wear and tear that it quickly looks used anyway, she adds. “Getting a fairly equal piece of equipment at less than half the price just makes more sense—especially during this day and age with tighter and tighter budgets.”
Howse recommends CIOs start with a small purchase to test the equipment and ensure it can handle the district’s needs. This also helps develop a relationship with the vendor and determine the quality of the customer service.
CDI Computers and Mac to School are two companies that sell refurbished equipment. Schools also can buy used devices from nonprofits, such as Computer Recycling Center and PC Rebuilders & Recyclers.
Another Chicago school, Bronzeville Scholastic Institute High School, saved 30 percent by purchasing refurbished Apple computers. And most administrators don’t realize or are aware that buying refurbished devices is an option, says Bronzeville Principal LeeAndra Khan.
“When we’re trying to save money we have to think more creatively, and that goes for everything from technology to furniture,” she says.
But CIOs should make sure refurbished devices are compatible with school software and have sufficient memory, says Geoff Fletcher, deputy executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA). For example, first generation iPads may not be able to run certain newer curriculum programs.
CIOs also need to examine the warranties and repair policies on refurbished machines. “You can’t future-proof any device, but you can make sure there is sufficient capacity in the refurbished machine going forward,” Fletcher says.