Free printing on the way out

By By David Teigland

By David Teigland

Free printing may be abolished in some U computer labs later this year, say library and computer lab administrators.

The Marriott Library’s Multimedia Center already charges 8 cents for every student-printed black-and white page. The new charges would affect the other library managed student computing labs: in the Union, the Engineering and Mines Classroom Building, the Sage Point residence hall and the Heritage Center.

“It’s kind of expensive, considering we pay so much in fees already,” said Rosimar Afonso, a computer lab user and a doctoral student in economics.

Carol Jost, the library’s finance and facilities manager, said the printing charges are essential for staffing the computer labs and paying employees who service photocopiers and printers at the library.

If the multimedia center didn’t charge users for printing, “we couldn’t cover our expenses,” Jost said.

Some students agreed that free printing should be limited or done away with altogether.

“I think it’s fair. People here would print out lots of pages and just leave them on the printer without picking them up,” said Chris Allan, an attendant at the Union computer lab.

At the multimedia center lab, “it’s worth it” to pay 8 cents a page, said Dan Guglielmo.

“There are more computers and more help if you need it. It’s got more advanced equipment than the other labs,” said Guglielmo, a junior public relations major.

Printing volume in the four free-printing labs far exceeds that of the multimedia center.

Caroljean Hanson, head of multimedia and library student computing labs, said that when school is in session, the multimedia center uses about 4,000 pages per day for black and-white printing. In the other labs, where printing is free for students, users print a combined 18,000 pages per day.

“Because of the massive amount of printing done in the outer labs, we will have to charge eventually,” Hanson said.

Union lab users can print 15 pages per day for free, while the EMBC, Sage Point and Heritage Center labs allow 50 free pages per day.

“When people can print free, they often print materials they do not pick up and the printouts end up in the recycle bins,” Hanson said.

While student computing fees-about $80 per semester for full-time undergraduates and $100 per semester for full-time graduate students-mostly go toward computers and related equipment, printing revenue goes toward paying staffing costs.

For the 2002-03 fiscal year, the library took in $78,476 from UCard printing fees at the multimedia center. The library had expenses, including sales tax, supplies, printer maintenance, servers and printers, of $71,788. That left only $6,688, which went to pay a small portion of staffing costs.

Jost and Hanson said that the non-multimedia center labs-EMCB, Union and the residence hall labs-could start charging for printing before the end of 2004. Hanson said the change might take place in time for the beginning of the 2004 Fall Semester, but she emphasized that officials have not yet determined a start date. The labs will publicize the change when a date is selected, she said.

Library and lab officials have delayed implementing the printing charges due to the phase-out of the use of the smart chip for storing money on students’ UCards.

“We are waiting until the conversion to the [magnetic] stripe on the UCard is complete and stabilized,” Hanson said.

When that happens, the non multimedia center labs will be equipped with magnetic stripe readers, similar to the ones now in place at the multimedia center, to charge students for printing.

Jia Hu, a senior majoring in marketing and finance, said he would not be happy if labs like the one in the Union began charging for printing.

“That’s no good. We pay enough through student fees,” he said.

Afonso agreed. “It would be really upsetting,” she said.

Charging students for printing is difficult, Jost said, but necessary.

“We understand that students don’t have much money,” she said. “If we could figure out how to charge less, we would.”

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