Post Classifieds

Student gives two cents on printing costs

By Marcus Wekenmann- Senior, Journalism
On February 1, 2010

Consider for a moment the cost of being a student. Yes, it makes my head throb too. Of course, in light of our more than $20,000 tuition, $0.08 doesn't seem terribly bad, does it? But stop by a DePaul Intelliprint computer around campus with your professor's 10-page reading assignment in PDF format and you may be humming a different tune.

Yes, do this once a week, perhaps for two of your courses and $0.08 has suddenly turned into the price of a decent dinner during your 15-minute break in night class, or perhaps drinks for you and a special someone afterward.

DePaul, unlike hundreds of other colleges, does not offer any allotment of free printing or copies. The rationale, according to the Information Services Web site is that "less than half of DePaul students make prints on university printers."

So this, of course, is the University's way of making printing equitable, providing it to students who actually use it. Matthew Sherman, manager of Document Services, which runs the Campus Copy Centers (not the printing services), confirmed their strategy via e-mail.

"The charge back is a fair way to distribute the cost. If you use it then you pay for it," he said. "Nobody wants to pay for something they did not purchase."

Yet, I'm certain I do not speak only for myself when I say I would gladly go Office Space-style on my Canon Inkjet if I was allotted a bit of free printing.

Then there is the cost argument. If students do not pay, through tuition or per use, how will copiers and printers be maintained, or ink and toner purchased?

Students could pay for the allotment either through a nominal fee included in tuition. What's another $15 on top of $20,000 anyway? Consider the fact that if included in tuition, the fee can even be covered by financial aid. Simply put, one or two dollars out of a student's pocket here and there adds up quicker than if paid for all at once, and stings far worse.

There's another compelling side to DePaul's argument. According to Information Services' calculations, the University saves nearly 104 trees per year. And in a remarkable practical, mathematical display that could only have been conceived in academia, the people at IS even show their work!

While an actual calculation of the number of trees saved by the Intelliprint system at DePaul may be a bit contrived, the environmental aspect of this issue is very real. Computer labs at schools with some amount of free printing may very well end up littered with garbage when that girl next to you forgets she pressed print on the entire Perez Hilton blog, not just one post.

Schools like Northwestern, however, are combating this issue by offering students a lower printing rate on double-sided prints to conserve paper. This is just added insurance to the assumption that students wouldn't want to waste their printing allowance on frivolous documents.

Perhaps more effectively, a rollover system, where unused allotment can carry over from academic quarter to academic quarter will give students incentive to be frugal with paper use.

The fact is no matter how paperless DePaul-or even today's society-would like to be, hard copy will still be necessary for a long time. I venture to say that until Amazon releases a Kindle 16, technological advances will not trump the uses of hard copy in school.

First, few people prefer reading lengthy articles on a computer screen. A physical copy is easier on the eyes.

Most professors also prefer marking up students' written work. A physical copy allows them to use that shiny new red pen. Have you ever tried to e-mail a professor that only accepts paper copy? That red pen must be something quite special.

Lastly, while many collaborative tools are developing online, handouts are still the most affective way to get people to look at something important. The flier guys in front of the "L" taught me that.

Even SGA Executive Vice President of Operations Em Mack believes the school should explore some printing and copying alternatives. "This is an obvious issue, especially now when every cent counts," he said in an e-mail.

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