Thats too bad she does not like the 15.4" widescreen ZT3000 as that is excellent for students to use for watching widescreen DVD's, having more screen space for excel spreadsheets, etc.
This can still be carried easily in a student backpack that holds a 15" LCD (Targus, etc) but she is probably more concerned with appearance and lighter weight then some of the extended capabilities above (and nearly all business notebooks are sticking to 14.1" LCD's or smaller as well).
Yes, Sony's are very pricey and don't have any better reliability and are superior only really if you use a memory stick camera or camcorder (Sony) and use the video editing software they supply.
If you want to stick with a HP notebook, consider the business nc6000 (rated 8.5 at Cnet -- see recent review) - you have to access this through the business section at HP.com not the consumer hpshopping.com. It is also a Pentium M notebook and has the 14.1" LCD so it weighs about 5.5 pounds or less versus the HPZT3000/Compaq X1000 6.5 pounds.
If you want to consider them at Fry's Electronics on the west coast or online Fujitsu makes some nice 13.3" Screen notebooks (made in Japan) but many have integrated video memory not dedicated like the ZT3000 HP.
IBM also makes some great notebooks with a 14.1" LCD or smaller and they also have great keyboards and are built durable (can take more knocks and drops). You have to order IBM's online mostly.
Dell makes the 600M with a 14.1" LCD but you will notice the HPnc6000 is rated much higher on Cnet.
Toshiba has the business Techra line with 14.1" LCD's so consider those.
The pretty Sony 12.1" notebooks are great for airplane travel but they are too small for everyday use unless she intends to plug in an external keyboard and even possibly an external LCD monitor in the dorm (which can be done if there is space -- this is what many road warriors do on their desks at work).
My daughter wants a smaller machine than the 15.4 inch HP zt3000 I picked out for her. I don't want to spend the fortune for the sony though. Is there a compromise? Her college may not support an Athlon based machine.