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Laptop Program Information

The College of Design Laptop Program helps Design Students purchase, use, and have assistance with maintaining their own laptop computers. This plan allows the studio and computer lab to be joined and portable. Curricula and coursework continue to be revised to optimize integrated learning with digital technology. The Design Laptop Program offers an option for mobility, and is usable anywhere within the College, or from a remote location via networking. This helps make the design studio technology environment rich, portable, and accessible.

Purchasing a laptop through the College of Design

After completing the Core, undergraduate students admitted into a Design major and Design graduate programs are presented with the opportunity to purchase a laptop through the College.


  • Newest Apple MacBook Pro 15” laptop
  • Latest powerful design software necessary for Design College major areas of study
  • Repayment is made to the College of Design for the included materials over a period of three academic years, rather than a high up-front expense.


Why should I have a laptop?

While purchasing or owning a laptop isn’t required by the College of Design, many of the programs have stated that they believe that ownership of a laptop with the proper software loaded and configured correctly is critical to educational success.

Why this program?

We offer this program as a financially advantageous way for students to obtain, own, and operate their computers. The college also provides access for laptop program participants to support if and when things go wrong, in addition to the group buying power to get a high-end machine at a better price than usual retail individual purchasing.  This program meets or exceeds all College of Design departmental recommendations for student laptops.

Is this a lease?

No, this is a special program that the college offers, which allows students to completely pay for the computer and included software and accessories over a 3-year term.  It is completely available to the student participants to make use of during the agreement, but the college maintains ownership of the machines during the term of the contract, so that certain software programs that the College of Design owns can legally be installed and maintained.

What kind of machine will I get?

Here are the specifications for the 2016 Laptop Program configuration:

  • Apple MacBook Pro 15” with Retina Display, model number Z0RG
    • 2.8-4.0 GHz Intel Quad-Core i7 Processor
    • 16 GB system operating memory
    • 512 GB solid-state PCIe storage
    • AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics processor with 2GB VRAM.
    • AirPort Wi-Fi 802.11ac Wireless connectivity
    • Warranty: 3-year Extended AppleCare warranty, automatically enrolled.

Accessories that the College of Design includes:

  • Laptop-carrying bag
  • Portable external hard drive for data backups and extra storage.

Additional specification details are provided to eligible students during the ordering process.

What software comes with the program, installed on the machine?

Microsoft Office, Trimble Sketchup Pro, and Adobe Creative Cloud are the primary packages of software purchased and installed under the Design Laptop Program contract. Microsoft Office includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more. Adobe Creative Cloud is a subscription-based suite of many individual applications, including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat Pro, among many others.

All of these software packages are compatible with either Mac OS or Windows OS. The Laptop program will support these software packages and also the installed operating systems, including upgrade availability.

Autodesk software titles such as AutoCAD Architecture, 3D Studio Max, and Revit may be installed on the Windows OS partition, as a convenience, in a demonstration mode. Select Autodesk titles may also be available for Mac OS, such as AutoCAD.

Additional software specification and licensing details are presented to eligible students during the ordering process.

Can I install my own software on the machine?

Sure. Third party software legally purchased by, or allowed to Design Students, and can be installed at during or after the program. Design Laptop Support will assist in any way we can, but can’t guarantee support for third party software licenses outside the scope of the Laptop Program.

Why are there only Apple laptops in the program?

The Intel-based Apple MacBook Pro laptops are capable of running either Mac OS, or Microsoft Windows OS.  This means that a machine set up as a Windows ‘PC’, Microsoft Windows OS will start up and run by default. Participants that choose a dual-boot configuration may specify the option of starting the machine in either operating system, interchangeably, and can work with either one, or choose to exclusively prefer one operating system to the other.

MacBook Pro laptops tend to be among the most versatile performance mobile workstations, with up to date technology and high quality design. They are technically very similar to Intel-based ‘PC’ brands of hardware. When running Windows OS directly, they operate just as any ‘Windows PC’ laptop would operate, with the same or better performance.

For all technical intents and purposes, a MacBook Pro running Microsoft Windows OS is a ‘PC’ laptop.

Which Operating System configuration should I choose?

It ultimately comes down to what you are comfortable with, and prefer to use.

Because MacBook Pro laptops can use multiple operating systems, the only decisions are whether to have the machine include Windows, and whether to favor Mac OS or Windows OS.

Windows, either as primary or secondary OS, is usually needed for Autodesk software compatibility, which coursework in some of the programs requires. The configuration can be changed after delivery of a laptop program unit, with some downtime involved, by the Laptop Program Administrator, if needs or preferences change.

Some College of Design Departments and programs have specified a preferred OS platform for their students. The Architecture, Community & Regional Planning, Industrial Design, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture departments recommend inclusion of the Windows OS platform for application compatibility.

Windows OS on MacBook Pro laptops can be configured either as primary or secondary use, for compatibility with applications such as Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture, Revit, and 3DS Max.

Industrial Design students also use Solidworks software, which is provided by that department, independently of the Design Laptop Program.  Solidworks software also requires installation in Microsoft Windows OS.

Graphic Design and some Fine Arts users tend to prefer Apple’s Mac OS X platform, but there is not an official preference specified, and the configuration is up to the user’s choice.

What do I keep when it’s over?

At the end of the contract term (three years) participants will have fully paid off the machine, accessories, and software packages included in the purchase price.  After paying a small transfer fee ($5.00), the machine will belong to that person.

The price for a one-year extension to the Adobe Software Suite and Microsoft Office is built into the contract, as a courtesy. The College of Design plans and intends to honor that agreement; however, companies often change their licensing contracts and contract terms can’t always be written to anticipate future licensing changes from vendors or producers. In the event that software requirements change, best efforts for resolution and accommodation will be made.

What happens if I need longer than 3 years to complete my degree?

No worries.  Machines can continue to be supported by the program for an additional year of enrollment for degree completion. Before departure, the college will transfer ownership and complete the contract as outlined above.

OK, I’ve read this far… So, how much does all of this cost?

The cost for previous programs has been, and for the 2016 laptop program will be $600 per semester, for 6 semesters. The cost structure, once planned and established, is set for participants in the 2016 program, through 2019.

Future programs may have differing cost structures (2017-2020, for instance) if hardware, software, or accessory prices change. The budget and cost structure is re-evaluated for every new annual iteration of the laptop program. Past program costs may be a rough estimate, but cannot be viewed as a guarantee for future program cost structures.

Laptop Program payment are assessed via U-bill, and financial aid may applied to cover the payments, which is under the purview of the ISU Financial Aid and Treasurer’s Accounts Receivable offices.  The laptop program does not handle cash directly.

That seems like a LOT of money…why?

This program is meant to be a better value than direct retail purchasing of the same or similar specification equipment, not necessarily the least expensive product on the market.  We expect the need for machine effectiveness for at least 3 years or longer, and it is important that it is still capable of running the latest software then, as well as the day it is new. In that light, we try to make the program high-value, rather than cheap.

The College of Design runs this program on a cost recovery basis only, not to make a profit for the college or Iowa State University. The cost covers a lot of included goods and services. The purpose of the program is to provide affordability for very useful high performance digital tools with bulk pricing advantages, and defray that substantial cost over time, rather than it being possibly prohibitively expensive if paid up-front.

The college, and by extension, each of the participants are buying a top-end, custom-configured computer, factory warranty, insurance, factored-in financing costs, accessories, and software, all of which you keep at the end of the contract.  These are far more powerful than the entry-level laptops you may see advertised for low sale prices.

Please also keep in mind that software subscriptions such as the Adobe suite can get expensive.  The student subscription cost for Adobe Creative Cloud is $249 for the first year, and $360 for each subsequent year. That totals $969 for three years, or $1329 for a four-year professional program, like Architecture or Landscape Architecture.  The Laptop Program covers those costs during participation, and also provides for an additional year of subscription afterward.

If my design program laptop breaks, what do I do?

We have a full-time technician and coordinator dedicated to supporting the laptop program; who is available to help troubleshoot and resolve software problems, arrange for hardware related repairs, re-install programs, or whatever might be necessary to return a laptop program unit to working condition.

What if I drop my machine, or it is stolen?

The college purchases insurance for each unit, which is included in the program costs.  The deductible for any and all claims is $500.

AppleCare Warranty does NOT include accidental damage protection, and repairs can be expensive, so please handle with care!

If my laptop program machine needs service, do I get a loaner?

The Laptop Program does have a very limited number of loaners available; however, program is run on a cost recovery basis, so there is little extra money for loaner computers.

The college makes every effort to get a temporary machine in student’s hands, but we can’t make that guarantee.  The college computer labs will be available for use, and there are several options on campus for short-term laptop checkout, if a loaner is not available at a particular time

What happens if I decide to leave the university before the end of the program?

There are two options, defined by the agreement contract terms for default and termination.

-The first option would be to find another eligible design student to take over the computer, accessories, contract obligations, and payments instead.

-The second option is to purchase the remaining contract balance outright, and keep the equipment, with the college-owned software removed.

What if I already have a laptop, or I want to purchase my own, can I still get software or support from this program?

Unfortunately, the College can only support those machines that are in the program due to software restrictions and configuration issues. Other facilities on campus include TechCYte in the University Bookstore, as a source for purchasing software, and AIT Computer Service can perform hardware and software support for a personally purchased and owned unit not in the Design Laptop Program.

For laptop program information and support contact:

Design Laptop Support
Mitchell Versteeg, 430 Design
Phone: (515) 294-5841