Missouri journalism students required to buy iPhone or iPod touch?

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Starting this fall, journalism students at the University of Missouri, Columbia will need to add an iPhone or an iPod touch to their shopping carts.

Before you protest that it may seem ridiculous, lavish, or favoring Apple to force students to pick up one of these expensive pieces of hardware, Brian Brooks, associate dean of the journalism school, told the Columbia Missourian that the requirement "will not be enforced, however, and there will not be a penalty for students who chose not to buy an iPod touch or iPhone."

So why require it? Brooks said that it'll helps students review recorded lectures, but the real reason for "requiring" the purchase is for the benefit of students on financial aid. He told the paper:

The reason we put required on it is to help the students on financial need. If it’s required, it can be included in your financial need estimate. If we had not required it, they wouldn’t be able to do that.

One student put up a Facebook group to protest the requirement, saying, "I don’t think people should be forced to buy one brand of computer or one brand of anything."

Valleywag's Owen Thomas takes a more extreme view. "So basically, this is a scam to let students take out federally subsidized loans to buy iPhones," Thomas writes. "Presumably they can put AT&T's minimum $69/mo. subscription on credit, too, and pay it off after graduation."

Of course, Thomas focuses only on the iPhone—completely ignoring the iPod touch—to make his point. But I understand what he's saying.

Then again, if students already use those loans to buy laptops—which most schools require—a few hundred dollars more probably won't make that much difference when it comes time to pay the loans back.

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