Spiralling print costs lead to call for online coursework submission

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Students across campus are outraged that a proposed increase in printing charges will leave them more out of pocket than ever.

Print job pending: Massive rises are expected in the cost of printing

Although the full extent of the increase, to take effect from 1 August, is still under discussion, it is thought that the cost of colour printing could go up to as much as 21p per sheet.

“Printing charges are already extortionate, especially when you consider how much you’re paying to be at university already,” said Kate Macdonald, a second-year English Literature and Creative Writing student. “Printing costs are clearly just another way for the university to rob students of finance. It’s high time [they] stepped up to the mark and allocated free academic printing credits.”

There is growing pressure on departments from both LUSU and ISS to allow electronic submission of coursework.

“Work that is for academic submission should be at no cost to the student as it is a requirement in order to progress with your degree,” said LUSU VP (Academic Affairs) Danny Ovens, who would like to see the system of paper submissions for coursework scrapped. “In some departments students have to hand in one or two paper copies and an electronic submission. If academics are stuck in their ways of marking on a piece of paper then the department should brunt the cost.”

“I don’t believe that it is in anyone’s long term interest to generate large amounts of laserprinted material,” said John Gallagher, Director of ISS. “I would support a general move towards greater levels of on-line work submission.”

An advantage of electronic submission would be a reduction in carbon usage. According to rough figures calculated by Ovens, around a third of all sheets printed are for coursework submission. Submitting this work electronically would give a saving of at least 15 tonnes of carbon each year. With the university’s wind turbine proposal having fallen through last month, it is hoped that electronic submission would allow the university to move forwards with their plans to become greener.

[pull name=”Keziah Nassiwa” title=”Final-year Media and Cultural Studies student”]I feel that it is unfair that I have to pay to print off readings. I think my university fees should cover it.[/pull]

“I think that it is a good move to reduce wasteful printing and to promote environmental sustainability. This increase is a good incentive to discourage students from printing unnecessarily,” said one first-year Accounting and Finance student.

The price increase will be introduced to take into account rising costs of ink, toner and paper, which have gone up around 30% in the past eighteen months. Previously the full cost of colour and A0 printing has been subsidised by black and white printing, but ISS can no longer afford to keep prices at their current level.

“[For some years] we’ve been able to not reflect the true cost of printing. ISS have been happy to subsidise the cost that would have been passed on to students,” said Chris Dixon, ISS Head of Operations. “Some money somewhere needs to be found to cover the increase in costs but it’s open to discussion where that will come from.”

Discussions are taking place between Ovens, Dixon and Andrew Neal, the university’s Chief Operating Officer, to determine the level of the price increase and the extent to which costs can be subsidised in the future by the university, ISS and students themselves.

The vast majority of printing across campus is black and white; in the academic year 2008-2009 there were 3,324,146 black and white sheets printed compared to 336,595 colour sheets. The price of colour printing will increase so significantly in order to keep price changes to black and white minimal.

Despite wanting to keep increases as low as possible, Dixon pointed out that Lancaster students will still be paying less for colour printing than students at many other UK universities. Although the cost of black and white printing at Lancaster is comparable to most institutions, colour printing costs on average 22.5p per sheet.

“Looking at the student printing account for the last year, the average print spend per annum for first and second year students is £20 and for 3rd year students is £26.50, ie between £6 and £9 per term,” Gallagher added.

Many students at Lancaster still feel that departments should do more to ease the cost of printing. Policies currently vary from department to department, with some providing printouts for a fee and others requiring students to do all printing themselves.

“I feel that it is unfair that I have to pay to print off readings. I think my university fees should cover it,” said Keziah Nassiwa, a final-year Media and Cultural Studies student. “In first year the department printed off a booklet with all our required readings and I think we had to pay a small fee for it but it did not cost as much as I have spent on printing in the last two years. We should have a department fee for printing that covers the required reading which should be subsidised from our fees.”

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