Engineering school eliminates printing supplement, students discuss printing discrepancies

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 6:11pm

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Design by Lizzy Rueppel

According to the College of Engineering, many Engineering students do not exceed the standard limit of printing pages allocated to each student in the school per term. As a result, the College of Engineering will be eliminating their supplemental allocation for students after the 2019-2020 school year.

Dan Maletta, executive director of information technology for the College of Engineering, explained the reasoning behind the phasing-out of this accommodation.

“We have generally seen a decline in (printing) demand,” Maletta wrote in an email. “We consistently see that almost two thirds of our students never exceed the ITS printing allocations, and as a result we are phasing out engineering’s supplemental allocation.”

Tanner Robison, an Engineering PhD candidate, explained that he often has large homework assignments and labs to print out, but doesn’t see the need for Engineering students to receive greater printing allocations compared to students in other colleges.

“I don’t get the feeling that Engineering students necessarily print more,” Robinson said. “I mean, I have to print off my homework and stuff periodically and some of them are pretty extensive. But that doesn't mean that people who are not in the engineering program don’t have to print off similar things.”

According to the College of Engineering, many Engineering students do not utilize the supplemental allocation they are given each term. In fact, the Michigan CAEN (Computer-Aided Engineering Network) website states that over half of students in Engineering don’t exceed the standard printing allocation available to all students. As a result, the College of Engineering will be eliminating their supplemental allocation for students after the 2019-2020 school year, an announcement they made on September 8, 2017. In 2016, Engineering students received an additional $40 for printing, but it was decreased by $10 the next school year. This four-year process of cutting down the allocation is helping to phase out the allocation altogether.

Though the College of Engineering has decreased their printing allocation, Engineering senior An Nguyen also said he hasn’t had to worry about running out of pages in past semesters. In fact, Nguyen said he has experienced students from other colleges utilizing Engineering students’ pages once they personally run out.

“I’ve never felt like engineers needed more printing money — if anything, I know a lot of LSA friends who have run short and asked other engineers to print things for them,” Nguyen said. “I think if we got less money that wouldn't really affect most engineers.”

Indeed, many LSA students — who tend to go through their printing dollars faster than Engineering students — end up asking friends to print pages for them.  

LSA freshman Emma Wong devoted the majority of her printing page allocation for the fall semester to an art history course. According to Wong, she ran out of her allotted pages before the middle of the semester.

“I was definitely out (of pages) before midterms,” Wong said. “By the (Art History) midterm, I had used up all my money.”

It is not unusual for students to rely on others to print out notes, study guides and other assignments once their own pages have been used up. Wong said she has been utilizing accounts of friends or classmates who have not yet exceeded their printing page limits in order to print necessary documents.

“A lot of my friends still had a lot of money, so I ended up just borrowing from some of my LSA friends,” Wong said.

Students in LSA are not subsidized for these printing overages, but other University schools, including the College of Engineering and Ross School of Business, provide their students with supplemental allocations. The College of Engineering converted its printing system to the ITS system in 2011, which allowed engineering students to use their University printing allocation coupled with the College of Engineering’s supplemental allocation for their students. Similarly, the Business School provides its students with an additional $16 per term for printing, according to its website.

Typically, students across the University receive $24 per term towards printing, and exceeding this limit is handled differently across colleges. According to Robert Jones, executive director of Support Services for Information and Technology Services, the printing limits were changed from pages to dollars four years ago when Information and Technology Services adopted a new print management system.

“Students began receiving $24 per term for printing as part of the standard computing services package in September 2014,” Jones wrote in an email to The Daily. “Prior to that, students received 400 black and white pages per term.”

As for the School of Business, Business sophomore Erica Wels explained professors often provide students with course readings online or in print during the semester, lessening the need to print from their own accounts. Although she has not exceeded her page limit in the past, Wels said she does not understand why there are discrepancies in allocations across schools.

“I don’t really understand why they don’t make (printing) equal for everybody,” Wels said. “If (students aren’t) going to use it then that money can maybe just roll over to next semester or … the school can use it for someone else.”

Students who are in LSA can elect to take courses in Engineering, including courses in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, or EECS. These students have CAEN accounts just like Engineering students do, meaning they receive the supplemental allocations for printing when enrolled in Engineering courses. The allocation will be eliminated after next school year for these students as well.

“Students in LSA, or any school or college who are taking Engineering courses receive the same allocation as Engineering students do,” Maletta wrote in an email. “As a result, the ending of the allocation will impact all the students who receive it equally.”

Student efforts to change printing policies within LSA have emerged, especially in developments through LSA Student Government and its Subcommittee on Technology, Advising, and Academic Resources. Among the subcommittee’s current projects is Improving the Printing Pages system for LSA Students. Plans to amend the printing pages system have occurred in the past, but there has been difficulty in getting proposed resolutions passed, according to Monika Dressler, director of LSA Instructional Support Services.

“On various occasions over the years, the LSA Student Government has discussed with ITS proposing other changes to printing,” Dressler wrote in an email. “In the past, they were able to work with ITS and move forward some ideas … others have had less traction.”

Many students have varying opinions on the matter. Some argue LSA students in the humanities and social sciences are more likely to need more pages because their course load is traditionally heavy in reading and writing. Additionally, more printing allocation means higher tuition costs, which would ultimately financially inhibit students. LSA Student Government has discussed the various ideas in detail, contributing to the setback of reforming the printing page allocations.

According to Nathan Wilson, LSA Student Government president, printing is dependent on the student and their learning style, which adds to the difficulty of making an argument to change the limit. Until technology is better understood in the academic context and less professors require students to print documents, the current allocations in LSA will remain.

“Making printing pages better will involve some kind of monumental change and ultimately the goal of printing should just be to reduce it,” Wilson wrote in an email. “This will ultimately require a change in the way professors run their classrooms … that will come with time as they get used to using new technology that can reduce reliance on paper.”