The Price of Printing: Who Will Pay?
Dean of LIS Mike Roy launched his new blog with a somewhat uninspiring title: Another Dean’s View. That said, Mike’s first post is an important topic for Middkids next year: paying for printing. That’s right, MiddBlog heard rumors of this in the form of price quotas but now it seems the future of pricing printing is up for grabs. Mike poses a series of questions:
Should we institute a quota? Some schools provide students with a quota, and only charge them for their printing after they exceeed their quota. Some economists argue that this is a bad idea, as it creates a new, albeit less severe, moral hazard. If there is a quota, should it be the same for all students, or should it vary based on the amount of writing or e-reserves assigned in the course? or on financial need?
In our current economic climate where we are having to cut budgets, what is the objective in introducing a charging scheme? Should our pricing be so low that printing costs are still subsidized, but just less so than our present system of not charging at all? Should we try to recover all the costs associated with printing? Should we be so bold as to try to change our printing system from a money-loser to a revenue source, allowing us to (for example) increase the amount of internet bandwidth or wireless in the dorms?
How do faculty connect to this? In the same way that responsible faculty factor in the cost to the student when choosing texts for a class, should faculty begin to factor in the printing cost when assigning reserve readings and writing assignments?
Mike will encounter most resistance from students on e-reserves. Some students feel they don’t have a choice but to print their readings. Most cannot read their e-res on the screen. Annotations on screen are also a point of contention. I do not see faculty reducing the amount of e-res assigned mostly because faculty have already been pushed from assigning books to be bought in the bookstore to e-reserves. It will be hard to attach a cost or “credit” to the amount of E-res assigned mostly because it would have to be done on a rolling basis because faculty add e-res as the semester goes on. Also, not all prof. use the official e-res site and instead put papers in the classes folder for reading. Either way, I do think that the cost has to be made clear to professors and students at the beginning of the semester when students sign up for classes. It also might be worth investigating a “cap-and-trade” type scheme where professors get to give “e-res printing credit” to students and then must reduce the total-school-wide amount each semester. It also might be cool to tap an economics class to do this as a project… people in the community have respect when students research and propose a solution.
I see many students’ bringing their own printers to school, using the College’s reams of paper, and squabbling over whether roommates can “borrow” their printer. The Bookstore will want to start stocking ink cartridges. The professors that are willing to receive work via email will become instant hits. The professors who require you to have your e-res printed for referencing in class will be despised.
Either way, I think it would be necessary to not charge anybody for a semester or year but show them how much their printing costs. Then, introduce subsidized pricing and then gradually raise the price of printing to cover costs fully. Springing this on students will not end well. It’d be interesting to see if student turn to e-book readers like the Kindle (which is launching an education edition soon).