Oletha Minto, a freshman at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, was able to use her own computer to complete assignments during her first semester.
"I like writing my papers on it because it is so easy," Minto said, demonstrating the personal computer's features.
Minto has been given unlimited use of the Macintosh SE/30 computer because she is a participant in the Meyerhoff scholars program. Freshman Stan Angus, another Meyerhoff scholar, said he likes to play games as well as study on his computer.
Apple Computer Inc. donated 19 computers to the program. Sixteen Macintosh SE/30 computers went to each of the scholars and three Macintosh IIci computers went to the program's administrators. The scholars also received a software library from Claris Corp. The gift exceeds $100,000.
The Meyerhoff program was created by the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Foundation in 1988, with an initial gift of $560,000. The goal is to help increase the number of minority students in science and technology.
Students in the program receive free room, board and books, a full scholarship for four years to UMBC, stipends, salaried internships and a personal computer.
The first group of 19 male students, who began college in the fall of 1989, received IBM computers purchased by Meyerhoff. The 19 students, who all returned this year as sophomores, earned an average grade of 3.5 on a 4-point scale, according to a UMBC spokeswoman.
Robert Meyerhoff created the program out of concern over the scarcity of black men in the sciences, said Freeman Hrabowski, executive vice president and director of the program.
"He has a special interest in supporting that group of males because there had been a significant decline in the numbers entering college."
Women became eligible for the program because this year's scholars are funded by a $100,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Federal requirements do not permit the program to exclude women.
The 16 freshmen include eight female students and eight male students.
The Meyerhoff scholars program will continue to be open to both men and women in the future, Hrabowski said.
Students in the program represent the top 1 percent of students nationwide based on their Scholastic Aptitude Test scores.
The administrators of the Meyerhoff program approached Apple with the idea of donating computers to the scholars, and Apple, already one of the vendors at the university, agreed.
"Apple has been very supportive in their efforts to recruit minorities," Hrabowski said. "The Apple people have been very interested in enhancing minority education."
"I think the program has the right combination of goals and priorities, one of its goals being to stay with the scholars for the four-year period," said Frank Shap, regional manager for Apple.
Minto, an engineering major, said she looks forward to using the computer when she starts her engineering classes.
With the computer-aided design kit donated by Claris, Minto will be able to build a model, such as an automobile, on screen, blow it up and look at it from different angles, according to Susan Boyer, program coordinator.
"I think it's important for technology to be an area of interest for the college," Hrabowski said. "The computers allow the students to have a variety of experience while sitting at their desks."
With the computers, Hrabowski said the students can do their writing and modeling, using the computer to see scientific results without doing the work in a lab.