For once, technical complications have benefited the student body. Free printing for students at USITE computing clusters at Harper and Crerar Libraries was supposed to end at the start of Autumn quarter, but complications have delayed the process of adding fees for at least a few more months.
Network Services and Information Technology (NSIT) announced its plan to institute a pay-for-print system last year when its budget could no longer keep up with the sharply rising volume of student printing. According to Emily Baker, director of NSIT Learning Environments, the increase in printing began in the 2000-2001 school year for a variety of reasons: the opening of a second USITE computing cluster at Crerar, the increased availability and printing of online resources, and the launching of University's electronic reserve program and NSIT's Chalk Project.
These events combined to send a frenzy of students to the computing labs to print Internet research materials and online readings.
Today the cost of printing is on the rise and has already exceeded the USITE printing budget. Baker said that NSIT cannot continue to sustain such losses, and, if all goes according to plan, students will begin paying for printing in January.
Although the fees were slated to begin in the fall, the process of researching, designing, and implementing the system has taken longer than expected.
This delay was due, in part, to a lengthy process of finding and negotiating a contract with a vendor. It was also largely the result of an attempt to design a fair and economical system for students. Baker said that because the new, for-pay system would have such a large impact on students, it was important to have a dialogue with them.
NSIT cultivated this dialogue by spending several weeks last year meeting with the Student Print Committee, a group of students and administrators appointed by the Inter-House Council. NSIT shared information and vendor presentations with the group and took its recommendations and feedback.
Lori Hurvitz, associate director for student activities at Office of the Reynold's Club and Student Actitivies ,said that committee members were able to join NSIT to hear the presentations by the different companies and discuss which aspects of the program were important to students. "But we were aware that we did not have the technical knowledge to actually make a decision," she said. "We made recommendations to NSIT about which system we preferred."
NSIT has chosen as its vendor GoPrint, a California software development and management consulting company which has provided printing systems for universities and public libraries since 1987. With GoPrint, NSIT promises a user-friendly system that will only add a simple authentication step to the printing system that asks users to confirm their intent to print and pay.
GoPrint will also allow NSIT to explore multiple methods of payment for printing. In addition to the Chicago Card's CashStripe, which students will use to pay for printing in January, it may eventually be possible to charge printing costs directly to students' bursar bills or to develop an online debit system.
One of the few remaining questions is that of cost.NSIT and the Student Print Committee will meet again soon to set the rate for single-sided, black-and-white printing. The price per page, which is now estimated between six and eight cents, will be determined jointly by the recommendations of the print committee and annual printing and system costs.
Many students have responded positively to this quarter's continuation of free printing. law, letters, and society concentrator Al Mezo thinks the continuation of free printing is great, considering the large amount of printing required for many classes with the increasing popularity of Chalk and electronic reserve.
Mezo's response typifies that of many social science and humanities concentrators on campus, who generate the bulk of student printing. According to NSIT, social sciences students account for 32 percent of USITE's printing clients, but they do 52 percent of the printing.
Observing this uneven trend in students' printing habits, some pure science concentrators showed little sympathy for their social science counterparts.
"We need to cover the printing costs somehow, and if NSIT can't do it, it makes sense to have the students who print more pay more," said physics concentrator Kei Kondo.
According to Baker, individual page fees are the fairest solution to a problem that needs to be solved. As students' printing needs are widely varied, a flat printing fee for every student would be unfair, and a quota of free pages would be inefficient.
"Our peer institutions have already instituted similar payment systems," Baker said. "So enjoy the free printing while you can. Pay-for-print is on its way in."