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Committee Considers Charging Students for Printing

After four years, the Curricular Policy Committee will resume discussions on the cost of printing.

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11

Following an increase in the number of pages printed by the student body in the past two years, the Curricular Policy Committee (CPC) is considering making changes to the printing system at Kenyon, including charging students for printing.

The CPC first discussed this issue four years ago, according to Vice President of Library and Information Services Ron Griggs. Over the course of a year, members investigated several potential reasons behind the rise in pages. “One of the things that became evident [was] that printing was related to electronic resources,” Griggs said. “It was also related to textbook costs because some faculty … [were] concerned about very high textbook costs [and] were assigning online resources which were free, but then students would print them. So in a sense they were moving the costs of the textbook from the student’s pocket to LBIS’s pocket.”

Likewise, Griggs said the Committee also recognized some classes required more printing than others. In a creative writing seminar, for example, students must bring copies of their work for everyone in order to get a range of feedback. “So that means that the student who takes creative writing prints a lot more than a student who takes a history class or a biology class,” Griggs said.

Ultimately, four years ago, the CPC chose to not charge students for printing. “We wanted to see what was going to happen with textbooks, what was going to happen with online resources because … this was 2008,” Griggs said.

Instead, the Committee made changes to the printing quality in general, buying new high-speed printers with special functions like copying and scanning, which reduced the cost of printing to about 2.5 cents a page and stabilized the cost of printing by using less ink, according to Griggs.

In the past two years, however, there has been another increase. “That’s a concern to us,” Griggs said. “We wanted to open this question back up to the Curricular Policy Committee. ‘Hey, after four years, here’s what we know.’ We felt that it’s time to take another look at this because the market has changed.”

Besides studying textbook costs and online resources again, the Committee will also look at any new aspects of the issue, specifically tablet and e-reader use among students. “Maybe 10 years from now, we won’t worry about [printing] because everybody will be perfectly happy to read on screen-devices,” Griggs said. “Today, I don’t know.”

Although charging for printing may be a solution to the changing market, Griggs said he hopes any charge will not discourage students from printing what they need. “We [don’t] want to have a system that some schools do which is to have very high charges. They actually sort of make money on every page,” he said. “If the price was low enough, then a student wouldn’t worry about [printing].  If it’s 2.5 cents per page, a 10 page paper is costing you a quarter.”  

Some peer institutions have adopted quota systems in which students are allotted a certain number of free pages, but Griggs offered some concerns about such an arrangement. “I don’t like the quota system, [because] they artificially charge higher for the pages after the quota,” he said. “So let’s say you get 1,000 pages a semester, that 1,001st page is now costing you 9 cents or 10 cents. It costs 2.5 cents to print that thing. … They are using the overage to fund the first 1000 free pages.”

The CPC is currently in the early stages of its discussion, and is still accepting volunteers to discuss and research charging for printing. Griggs said he hopes both faculty and students provide feedback so the CPC can make the best possible recommendation. “We need to understand what students are experiencing and what their viewpoints are,” Griggs said. “We need to understand how faculty experience this in terms of the classroom and what they’re seeing and what they’re expecting students to do. And of course we need to understand in terms of our own environment and we need to think about budgeting.”

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