A few colleges offer a laptop to incoming freshmen (paid for out of their tuition, of course), but Oregon's George Fox University is, so far as we know, the first college to give students the choice between a MacBook or an iPad. According to Macsimum News, George Fox University's chief information officer, Greg Smith, said, "The issue for us is the changing landscape of educational computing and the value dilution of a laptop for a traditional undergraduate." Smith says offering the iPad as an alternative to the MacBook is well-suited to students who already have a laptop of their own, or students who think the iPad will be a better fit for them than a full-sized MacBook.
Smith is aware that the iPad has potential issues associated with it, and he wonders if the iPad will be able to fully meet students' educational needs. According to Smith, "These are the kinds of questions we really won't know the answer to until we get started." The university hasn't supplied any information on which models of iPad they intend to offer to incoming students, but I'm willing to bet that the 3G-enabled models probably won't be offered.
It will be interesting to see how George Fox University's experiment plays out over the next year. Personally, something like an iPad would have been a fantastic tool for me during my undergrad studies, especially compared to the ancient, leaden brick of a PowerBook G3 I was toting all over campus. Whether students will choose to sacrifice the higher performance and flexibility of a MacBook over the ease of use and portability of the iPad is, as Smith says, something that remains to be seen.