Chromebooks Were Once a Good Deal for Schools. Now They’re Becoming E-Waste.

Nicole Nguyen:

Low-price, easy-to-use Chromebooks were once a boon to cost-conscious schools. Educators say the simple laptops are no longer a good deal.

Models have shot up in price in the past four years. Constant repairs add to the cost. Google imposes expiration dates, even if the hardware still works. This year, Google ceases support for 13 models. Next year, 51 models will expire.

These surging costs are presenting a predicament for anyone who runs a school and wants to educate children. Some administrators say they are throwing precious funding at a product that just doesn’t last long enough. Doubling the lifespan of Chromebooks could save public schools—and taxpayers—an estimated $1.8 billion, according to U.S. PIRG, a public-interest research group that analyzed Chromebook data.

Chromebooks have no second life. When they expire, they become e-waste. By contrast, Macs and PCs can run apps even after their native software is no longer supported. They can even be repurposed into Chromebook-like devices.

Death dates

During the pandemic, schools rushed to buy Chromebooks and other devices for remote learning. Chromebook sales slumped after in-person classes resumed.