Student printing policy under review

A new printing policy is being considered by Information Technology which would eliminate free printing services on campus. While nothing has been decided yet and students can still print materials for class in several locations on campus, a new print per page policy could be in the works.

“We are stuck between a rock and a hard place–making sure students can print from as many locations as possible, making sure money collected from students by technology access fee is used to benefit students, but also making sure students are aware that this cost is a lot,” said Annette Littrell, Information Technology services manager.

Several factors have led the IT department to a crossroads in policy making. Amid rising costs and Tennessee Board of Regents guideline changes, what is the best way to provide printing services to more than 10,000 students?

“Last year’s cost was $65,000 and it has continued to spiral out of control for the last five years,” said Littrell. “Unfortunately, since TBR has changed the way money comes out of the technology access fee, that money has to come from somewhere else.”

According to Littrell, the annual cost of printing services has increased $40,000 in the last five years.

Technology access fee money is divided into two pools. Pool two, the larger of the two, was once spent in part on consumables such as paper, toner and ink but is now allocated to other services or equipment deemed beneficial to students. Ways the money in pool two can be spent include computer software, new faculty computers, smart classrooms, and infrastructure. There are no written guidelines for how money in pool one can be spent.

Such a provision includes increasing the efficiency of the printing services offered at Tech. Students would be able to print from almost anywhere on campus.

“So if you’re in your dorm and on your way to class and you need to print something you have to turn in to your English class, you can actually send your print job to Henderson Hall and pick it up when you get there,” Littrell said.

The IT department has stated that any new policy would be revenue neutral, meaning that IT would not be making money off printing fees. The money accumulated by printing fees would go to cover paper costs in the labs. No decision has been made about possible print quotas or how much the cost would be exactly per page, but Littrell points out that the price would be minimal compared to other universities.

“What we have found out from other universities is that is that it just makes students aware of what they are printing, so they stop and think, ‘Do I really need to print this?'” Littrell said. “The vast majority of students print what they have to print, but they are paying for the people who print 300 to 400 pages they don’t need or print a 50 to 60 page document and just stick it in the recycling bin.”

And while wasting supplies by unnecessary printing is a concern, the opportunity costs associated with $65,000 is truly the bigger picture.

“We are thankful and appreciative that a majority of our students aren’t abusing the service. And we want them to keep the $65,000. [The money] can go to something else beneficial to students instead of just going in the recycle bin, and that is the end goal,” Littrell said.