At the end of last semester, I got an e-mail from the wonderful people at University Information and Technology Services. The e-mail kindly informed me that I had used up half my printing allotment for the semester. Since it was the Tuesday after classes ended when I received that e-mail, I wasn’t too concerned.

Then I started thinking that in my three and a half years at the University, this is only the second time I’ve gotten that e-mail.

I’m pretty sure I’m getting ripped off.

Most students get a measly 400 pages worth of printing each semester, according to the ITS website. Students in the College of Engineering are allowed to print 2,000 pages each semester if they use a computer connected to the University’s Computer Aided Engineering Network (more commonly known at CAEN).

I’ve heard some students say that their 400 pages aren’t nearly enough, but it’s actually a fair amount considering that we live in an increasingly digital world. Professors often allow laptops in the classroom so that students don’t have to print readings and lecture slides off CTools. Some even allow students to submit papers via e-mail. So the number of pages allotted is reasonable. What’s unreasonable is the way that the University counts those pages and the way it makes students pay for them.

There are a couple of ways this system gyps us. First, even if students print on both sides of a single sheet of paper, it counts as two pages of their allotment. The logic behind that is probably that the printing allotment is really meant to manage the amount of ink that goes onto a page, not really the amount of paper used. Paper is a considerable cost on a campus of about 26,000 undergraduates, but ink cartridges are much more expensive.

That’s why color pages aren’t included in the printing allotment. It’s an extra $0.35 to print a page on a color printer — even if that page only has black and white text. That extra cost is charged to students’ accounts.

But the biggest rip off is that students’ printing allotment doesn’t roll over. At the end of each semester, students lose whatever pages they haven’t used. My tuition must pay for my printing in some way — tuition money goes into the general fund, which pays for operating costs. I’m paying for 400 pages per semester, and I’m barely using half of them.

This isn’t a good system. The University says it is committed to going green — the Planet Blue program being implemented in select buildings and campus recycling initiatives are evidence of this. Printing duplex is certainly more environmentally-friendly than printing single-sided, but the University doesn’t offer students any incentive to do this. Duplex printing should count as a single page — or perhaps as one and a half if the University needs to consider the cost of ink.

It’s also outrageous that even though I had about 200 pages remaining in my allotment last semester, I had to pay an extra $0.70 for the two pages that I printed in color for a project. If the University wants to deal with ink costs, they could count color printing as two pages worth of a student’s printing allotment — or whatever the monetary equivalent is.

Printing allotments should also roll over. For example, I took a class one semester in which I had to print out all my readings from CTools. My professor and GSI were quite insistent. That semester, I blew through half my allotment in about one month. If the University had roll over printing, I would’ve had about 800 pages left from previous semesters to use. This would ensure that students get to use every single page which they are entitled.

But not every student will use up all their pages — in fact, I bet fairly few students ever use up all 400 pages every single semester. Students should get reimbursed for pages they don’t use at the end of their college career. This way, students would only be paying for what they actually use.

The University isn’t giving students their money’s worth. The University should overhaul its system of printing allotment to give students what they’re paying for.

Rachel Van Gilder was the Daily’s editorial page editor in 2010. She can be reached at rachelvg@umich.edu.

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