iPad purchasing guide for schools

Over 600 school districts nationwide adopted 1:1 iPad programs in the 2011–2012 school year, and that number is projected to grow by leaps and bounds next year.

As more schools adopt iPads, there are more services providing ways to supply those iPads. With a wide array of options available, it can be difficult to figure out what method is best for your school.

We’ve put this guide together to help you sort through the information that’s out there, and to make it easier for you to figure out how to bring iPads to your classrooms. Let us know what you think in the comments!

Which iPad do my students need?

There are three generations of iPad available to purchase, and each comes with options for size and wireless capability. These three factors—generation, size, wireless options—affect the cost of the device.

The sizes are 16, 32, and 64 GB. The more storage you get, the more the iPad will cost: each boost in storage costs an extra $100 when buying directly from Apple.

All iPads have the ability to connect to wi-fi networks. Apple also offers a more expensive model that can connect to the internet over a 3G cellular network. Not only is the 3G iPad itself more expensive, you have to pay a network provider like AT&T or Verizon to use their network.

Many schools find that a recent version of the iPad (currently the second or third generation) in the 16 GB size with Wi-Fi only (no 3G access) is the most cost-effective way to meet their needs. Some schools are purchasing 64 GB devices to make it less likely that students will run out of storage space.

Apple’s website breaks down how different features affect the price when purchasing an iPad.

For schools, leasing is more common than buying

Most schools lease their iPads as opposed to buying them. Leasing iPads is an attractive option for many reasons, some of which are listed here by Scott Hutchinson, president of Webb School in in Knoxville, TN. It spreads the cost out over multiple years—3 years is a common duration—which makes iPads an easier addition to the school’s budget. Leases can also include very helpful services: for example, Webb can offer same-day replacement to students with broken devices. Schools can use their institutional buying power to negotiate reduced prices for these services.

Leases frequently include a buyout option when the lease is up. Apple’s financing plan, for example, gives schools the chance to purchase their leased iPads for $1 at the end of the lease term.

Schools typically pay around $20–25 per month for iPads, depending of course on which iPad model is purchased, which features are included, and the duration and terms of the lease.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs lower costs to schools

Some schools allow students to bring their own iPads. This can be an effective budget-saving measure in schools where many students already own iPads.

Schools with BYOD programs build a core list of device settings and apps that must be installed on all devices, whether leased through the school or owned outright by the students or parents. However, these schools don’t prevent students or parents from installing additional apps on the devices they own.

The School District of Palm Beach County has implemented a BYOD program, and has built a wiki with lots of great resources for planning an iPad program, BYOD or otherwise.

Grants can help you pay for iPads

If you want to reduce the impact an iPad program will have on your school’s budget, consider applying for a grant. Grants are offered through a number of government organizations at the federal, state, and district levels. Chicago Public Schools piloted iPads through a mini-grant program. More than 20 schools were awarded 32 iPads, one MacBook Pro for syncing purposes, $200 in iTunes credit for applications and a storage cart for the hardware.

Other schools find grants through the private sector. Brady Public Schools in Nebraska secured funding for an iPod program through the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation.

Jennie Magiera, a Chicago teacher and creator of the blog “Teaching Like It’s 2999,” was a recipient of a CPS grant. The “Grant Me Some Tech” page on her site lists places to find grant money or other funding for tech purchases, such as Technology Grant News, along with some great tips on how to write a successful grant application. She even includes a link to the grant she wrote to get her iPads. Thanks, Jennie!

Squidoo, a content organization site, provides another iPad grant advice page created by user amylaine. One of her recommendations: use the site GrantsAlert.com to get free email grant alerts for education and classroom grants.

Apple offers discounted education pricing

For many years, Apple has offered discounts for products that will be used in education. Your school might be eligible for these discounted prices on iPads. Go to Apple’s Education Pricing page to find out more.

Additional items that will affect cost


Extended warranty coverage usually isn’t included in the terms of the lease. Schools usually encourage parents to pay for warranty coverage, but do not require it.

AppleCare+ is an excellent warranty program offered directly through Apple; it costs $99 for a two-year plan. Baylor School in Chattanooga, TN, offers parents a 3-year warranty for $79 through their lease program.


You’re going to want to pick up a case for every iPad to shield it from the rigors of day-to-day use. Apple’s Smart Cover ($39 at Apple.com) has a slim profile and attaches to the iPad magnetically, but offers almost no protection against damage. We recommend a sturdier case for your students, such as the Defender series from Otterbox.


Purchasing apps for your students is an ordeal all its own :) . We’ll dig into that topic in another blog post. If you’d like our advice sooner, send us an email! We’d love to help you find the right apps for your students.


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