MU students printing less in digital age

Friday, October 18, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:29 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 18, 2013
MU student Jacqueline Miller waits to collect completed printing jobs in the Student Center on Sept. 16. "It's always like this this time of day," Miller said. Long lines can form at printing hotspots during peak times, causing printers to back up and potentially losing print jobs.

COLUMBIA — MU students are printing less now than they were five years ago, despite the university adding about 3,300 more user accounts since then.

Some faculty attribute this trend to better information accessibility, while some students say their decreased printing use echoes their concern about the environment.

Printing quota issues

In 2009, students printed about 13.4 million pages. Four years later, they printed about 12.3 million pages, a decrease of about 9 percent, according to reports generated in September by the MU Division of Information Technology.

Color printing has always been the minority, according to the reports.

In 2009 and 2012, color printing accounted for about 1 percent of total printed output.

At MU, students are awarded printing quotas based on their status; undergraduates receive $35 in printing for the academic year, while graduate students receive $50 for the same time frame.

So far this year, 4,834 students, or about 15 percent of users, have exceeded their print quotas, generating $90,956.14 in revenue for MU.

MU sophomore Ymani Wince of Florissant, who went over her printing quota in fall 2012, said $35 isn't enough to cover her yearlong printing needs.

"I don't think $35 is enough for a student who takes classes that requires an extreme amount of printing," Wince said. "For example, I had a professor who required students to print every online reading and bring it to class. The readings were an average of five to 10 pages, and we had these readings twice per week. Also, I took an English course that required the students to print out copies of their work for each student in the class. It was too much."

Some students have barely scratched the surface, though.

"So far this semester, I think I’ve used maybe a dollar’s worth of printing," said first-year graduate student Laura Miller of Columbia. Miller also prints at home but said she does this more for personal rather than academic uses.

One student suggested a printing quota tailored to students' majors.

"I feel that the amount is sufficient for an average student, but for some journalism students or heavy writing (and) communications majors, I feel that the amount could be raised slightly," said junior Ebony Francis of McKinney, Texas.

Miller said she’s noticed students seem to be printing less in the past five years and attributes the decrease to more developed technology.

"I definitely have noticed that (a decrease in student printing) since my freshman year in undergrad until now," she said. "My professors just want me to email assignments instead of printing them out and handing them in."

Harry Tyrer, a former MU Faculty Council chairman and a professor in the College of Engineering, said he's observed somewhat of a trend in student printing in the past five years.

"Students printed out course Web pages a few years ago," Tyrer said. "That is being phased out now. Also, most of my handouts are available electronically, and except for quizzes and exams, there is little that needs to be handed out to class."

Environmental impact

Faculty Council member Anthony Lupo said that although more professors are posting course materials online, he doesn't think students interact with them there.

"I noticed students are doing a lot more printing as more and more instructors have their notes online," said Lupo, a professor in the School of Natural Resources. "This is especially true in the last five years."

Students' impressions of printing's impact on the environment ranged from concern to apathy.

"I am concerned about the environmental impact of printing," Wince said. "Although we are in a digital age where many things can be done electronically, professors still require their students to print everything out. To save money as well as the environment, I try to do my assignments online."

Francis said she wasn't too concerned about the environmental impact.

"However, I am sure the Mizzou campus makes a large impact with all students constantly printing," Francis said.

A tree can produce about 8,333 sheets of paper, according to an estimate by Sanda Kaufman, a professor of planning, policy and public administration at Cleveland State University.

Based on this figure, MU's student printing so far this year has claimed 1,350 trees.

About 40 percent of a tree can be used for paper production, but the rest isn’t wasted, said Alan Rudie, supervisory research chemist in the Fiber and Chemical Sciences Research unit for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

"Everything else is used as the source of energy that runs the mill," Rudie said.

Future printing plans

Kevin Bailey, MU director of customer service and support for the Division of IT, outlined several printing-related changes that are scheduled or in the works, including:

  • Changing the printing allowance structure from an annual to a semester-based schedule in December.
  • Creating a Web page by August 2014 to handle printing refund requests and report printer issues.
  • Adding capability to print from phones and mobile devices in the future. "Plans for this change are being developed, but no timeline has been approved yet," Bailey said.

MU students printing less

Students at MU are printing fewer pages than they did five years ago. Despite an increase in the number of students who printed pages, the overall number of printed pages decreased by 17 percent since 2009. (JOEY FENING/Missourian)

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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