Student backpacks at Southwest Career College are much lighter than they were last semester.
Educators at the college have replaced traditional textbooks with the latest in electronic toys — the iPad.
The iPad made its debut on the electronic market in January 2010. But it was not available to the public until April. Since then, its popularity has skyrocketed.
Now, Southwest Career College is giving them to students who have enrolled in one of its programs.
The cost of the iPad, which sells for about $500 to $800, and the installment of the e-books are included in tuition, said Yolanda Arriola, president of the career and technical school at 1414 Geronimo in Central El Paso.
Tuition is about $19,500 for 11 semesters, she said.
Of the 130 students enrolled at the college for the 2011 spring semester, 75 were issued iPads when they paid their tuition. Only the students enrolled in the college’s associate degree programs received the iPads.
Students in other programs, such as the medical assistant program, cannot use the iPad because e-book versions of their textbooks do not exist, Arriola said.
All of the students who received iPads will be able to keep them after they graduate, she said.
Arriola said her 22-year-old son, Christopher Arriola, came up with the idea to replace the school’s traditional textbooks with the iPad.
Christopher Arriola oversees the school’s College of Diesel Technology.
He knew his mother was interested in helping the school’s students shed the burden of bulky books for modern technology.
Making the switch was not easy, said Jeremy Burciaga, an associate program director.
He said it took months to contact the publishers of all the books, tell them what they wanted to do and then find a way to digitize those books.
The school has not made a deal with iPad distributor Apple Computer Inc. for a discounted price, nor is it saving money by switching from traditional books to electronic books, he said.
But money was never the motivation behind the change, Yolanda Arriola said.
"It wasn’t a matter of saving," she said. "It was a matter of giving the students the latest technology and going green — to stop using so many trees for so many books."
Business management student Brenda Garcia, said it was easier for her to use an iPad with pre-loaded e-books on it than to lug actual textbooks around from class to class. She said the iPad also helps her access additional tools to assist her with her studies.
Garcia said she downloaded several free applications to help with her marketing and math classes.
Christian Lopez, another business management student, said the iPad also has the ability to print out a document at the nearest printer and jump to any book page in the blink of an eye — a benefit no traditional textbook can offer.