These days, students are showing more interest in the tech perks that campuses have to offer, and universities are taking notice.

Campuses are also beginning to resemble consumer technology marketing labs, with school-backed programs pushing gadgets and services that may have only a tenuous connection to the classroom.

Duke University has given 1,650 freshman new iPods from Apple Computer for free. The devices, which typically cost more than $250 in stores, come complete with the school’s crest and the words “Class of 2008” engraved on them, as well as preloaded “welcome” messages from school officials.

The pilot program is costing the university about $500,000, including the cost of the discounted iPods, salaries of academic computing specialists and grants to participating professors. It was funded with money set aside for a one-time innovative technology purpose.

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