The classroom question: Macs or PCs?

Though the Mac vs. PC debate continues nationwide, its outcome carries significant influence on college campuses. Universities and schools are issuing laptop requirements to students which compels them to become oriented with certain programs they will need to be acquainted with for their careers.

Programs such as the university’s Industrial Design program are still grappling with which computer to adopt.

Associate Professor of Industrial Design at University of Illinois at Chicago, Kevin Reeder, said the program has traditionally worked with PCs.

“We have always been PC-oriented, so we are leaning toward PCs,” he said.

Though Reeder said that PCs work best with programs like SolidWorks, a high-priority program for industrial design, he said many of his colleagues want to consider MacBooks for their students.

“The debate is over whether we want the new Windows 7, or whether we want all of the current abilities that Macs have,” Reeder said.

Meanwhile, students in the School of Art and Design’s Graphic Design program are required to purchase a 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Program Chair Jennifer Gunji decided to implement the requirement because “(students) were buying computers anyway.”

“Most of my students were buying computers before we had a laptop requirement, and they would buy it maybe by the time they were a junior,” Gunji said.

She also stated that cost is not a huge problem for these students because the cost is run through the financial aid department, and students are allowed more loan funds simply by completing a loan increase request with the Office of Student Financial Aid.

“Our main tool is that laptop, so it just made sense to integrate that into their financial aid packages. There was no way I would have made this a requirement if there wasn’t a way for it to go through the financial aid department,” Gunji said.

Reeder said industrial design is deciding whether it should offer financial aid as well.

Gunji said she considers the laptop requirement to be somewhat of a deal for her students. Many other programs require a lot of textbooks, which are costly and have little value after their use. Gunji said her program requires few textbook purchases.

Students are allowed three different options for buying their MacBook: low-grade, middle-grade and high-grade. The low-grade option costs the least, and the high-grade option costs the most. Gunji recommends that students buy the higher-grade one in the beginning because as they progress into the graphic design major, they often need or want their computer to have more abilities.

“What we found was that when students buy that Mac at a lower price, or (they buy) a lower-grade Mac, by the time they are seniors, they want something a little more powerful,” she said.

Cost aside, the advantages of having a computer that can do the things that are required for a student’s major is something Gunji said she considers a valuable tool.

Emelyn Baker, sophomore in Graphic Design, said the requirement allows her the convenience of working from home.

“The School of Art and Design’s computer labs are extensive and well equipped with all of the software and equipment you would need,” she said. “However, it’s extremely convenient to have a MacBook and therefore the ability to work on a project anytime, anywhere.”

Students said they think the cost is well worth it, because most firms in the graphic design industry use Macs as their standard.

“The price is steep for a MacBook, but I am willing to pay the money for it because I see it as more of an investment,” said Louis Lee, senior in Graphic Design.

Both students agreed that the cost was worth the convenience; however, they agreed even more strongly on the point that a PC could not do the things that a Mac could.

“Although the Adobe Creative Suite is dual platform, and I’ve used both Mac and PC versions of the Creative Suite, I experience fewer errors using Photoshop and Illustrator on my MacBook,” Baker said.

Though they disagree on whether to require a Mac or a PC, both Professor Gunji and Professor Reeder agree that laptop requirements are a growing trend throughout the country.

“I think we’ll be seeing more and more laptop requirements within the next three to four years,” Gunji said.