15:44 PM

Students seek, receive assistance through technology program

While many may take their personal computer and Wi-Fi for granted, some university students rely on the computers and technical support they are able to receive from their institution. With a spring semester that sent every student, faculty and staff member home to work online to finish classes, University of Houston-Clear Lake quickly established the Online Learning Assistance and Reimbursement Program to address students in need.

Students benefited from this program during this spring semester, but it was actually created in a slightly different form during 2017 when students faced similar struggles as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

"University Computing and Telecommunications, Academic Affairs and Finance/Administration, three key UHCL Units, developed the program to allow students to purchase technology and receive the reimbursement," said UHCL Assistant Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer LeeBrian Gaskins. "We continue to provide technical support for students to access educational resources. We are also working with faculty and students so they can get access to the software resources needed to complete their coursework."

All UHCL classes have been online since students returned from spring break in mid-March. Classes will be held online throughout the summer, forcing many students to scramble to find computers and Wi-Fi. As of late April, more than 141 students have been awarded approximately $82,250 toward computer needs.

"I am constantly impressed with the commitment of UHCL faculty to their students' success," said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Steven Berberich. "Once the stay-at-home order was put in place and some students were struggling initially to get access to needed technology, faculty joined with my office and the Student Affairs Office to help direct students to the resources we were putting in place to assist them.

"If specific software was required, faculty either have found ways to get students access to that software or found creative ways to teach the content that were not dependent on the software," he said.

The Online Learning Assistance and Reimbursement Program provides reimbursement for up to 80% of eligible expense toward the purchase of a laptop, desktop or tablet computer. Eligibility is dependent on the following:

  • Currently enrolled UHCL student (i.e., student presently enrolled for spring 2020 full-term or second-eight week);
  • Active FAFSA or TASFA on file with Financial Aid;
  • A course load of 6 or more graded Semester Credit Hours;
  • Receipt of purchased laptop/desktop/tablet dated 3/16/2020 through 7/31/2020;
  • Peripherals and other consumables are not eligible;
  • Students must submit an email to Financial Aid at uhcl_fao@uhcl.edu with supporting documentation of hardship and their purchase receipt.

"We have a number of students who are reaching out to us through the Hawk Emergency Fund (a fund created to assist UHCL students during emergencies) as well to help pay for Wi-Fi and other items," Dean of Students David Rachita reported. "They either don't have access to Wi-Fi at home or they can't continue to pay the bill."

UHCL students in need can find out more online about the Online Learning Reimbursement and Assistance Program or call the Dean of Students Office, 281-283-2567. To find out how to financially support the needs of students, call the Office of University Advancement, 281-283-2021, or email gifts@uhcl.edu.