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SCHOOLS AIM TO REQUIRE PC OWNERSHIP

Incoming freshmen at Sonoma State University and two other California State University schools may need more than ambition, enough cash for books and course fees, and smiles when they arrive on campus next year: A policy under consideration would make ownership of a personal computer a requirement for admission.

Administrators at Humboldt State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Sonoma State have asked the chancellor of the statewide system to approve the plan."We're excited about it," said Don Farish, vice president of academic affairs at Sonoma State. "We expect a response as early as next week."

Farish said the rule, if approved, would not be implemented until students and faculty members had a chance to debate it in a series of campus forums. He said a survey of this year's incoming freshman class indicated an 83 percent approval rate.

Farish said the university would take steps toward "making sure that cost (of a computer) is not something that would become a reason not to come to Sonoma State."

He said there would be provisions for financial aid packages to include money for the $1,000 to $3,000 cost of a personal computer with monitor, or computer companies could offer loans that would not come due until after grad-u-a-tion.

"In general, I think it's a good idea, because I think computers are very important learning tools," said Billy Hawes, a senior majoring in communications at Sonoma State. "But I do think it might pose a problem with some students from low-income backgrounds."

Farish said campus computer labs were not keeping up with students' needs.

"We're finding there are more and more courses that are requiring access to computers," he said.

Farish said that student dormitory rooms were wired into a campus computer network, and that students with computers could access the school library 24 hours a day. What's more, he said, "there is a societal expectation that college graduates are going to be conversant with computers."

With some 3,000 high school graduates applying for only 650 freshman slots at Sonoma State for the 1994-95 school year, the university is able to draw "an increasingly better group of freshman students, quite frankly, and we want to do well by them," Farish said.

Some students accused the university of exclusively pushing Apple computers through its student bookstore, where that brand is sold at a considerable discount.

A letter from Farish promoting the proposed requirement recently appeared in student mailboxes with an Apple Computer Inc. brochure, and the bookstore is using that letter to advertise Apple in the Star, the student newspaper.

"I've talked to a number of students who smell a rat," Farish said. "Apple has given us a better student price, a better discount, than any of the other computer manufacturers, but we're not pushing Apple preferentially to IBM."

In fact, Farish said, IBM compatibles bought off-campus are cheaper than the discounted Apples sold on campus.

Bookstore manager Ken Brown said Apple's student discount program - in operation at all state universities for nine years - was being copied by Hewlett-Packard and IBM. He predicted that prices on those brands would be reduced by next fall, when the computer requirement for freshmen might go into effect.

Some colleges - including Dartmouth College and a campus of the University of Minnesota - already require students to own personal computers, Farish said, but none of the California State University system campuses has such a rule.

"We're surprised that they're doing that," said Ligeia Polidora, communications director at San Francisco State. She said no similar plan was being contemplated there.

But Farish predicted a computer requirement would spread through-out the system.

"I think in a couple of years it will be commonplace," he said.