Updated policy cuts back free prints

Brett Johnson

Cuts in the state budget have resulted in policy changes that will affect the availability of free printing services offered to Sacramento State students.

As part of a policy adjustment implemented in the fall 2010 semester, students have access to 200 free black-and-white printouts in computer labs per academic year. Each student was given a complimentary 200 black-and-white printouts per semester under the previous policy.

Printsmart, created in spring 2001, is a system created to make using the laser printing services in computer labs more efficient and to establish a payment system for printing. In order to use the Printsmart system, students must have a Sac State or Courtesy OneCard.

Sac State’s Information Resources and Technology department made the decision to reduce the number of free prints last year following the annual quota of the Printsmart service being cut in half. Printsmart is mainly supported by state funding, with a small portion of funding being the revenue generated by students paying for printouts.

“The common misconception is that the money for the Printsmart service comes directly out of tuition, and that the students are getting ripped off by the reduction of free prints,” said Doug Jackson, Information Resources and Technology liaison.

California’s nearly $25 billion budget deficit has meant significant cuts to the state funding the Printsmart service receives.

“With the state budget being the way it is, it’s difficult,” Jackson said. “We’re doing our best to come up with appropriate solutions based on what we have to work with.”

The yearly allowance of $8,equivalent to 200 black-and-white printouts, was credited to each student’sOneCard in fall. Students, except for freshmen starting this semester, will not be receiving the additional $8 usually afforded for free prints this semester, and instead will have to wait until next fall for the credit supply.

Information Resources and Technology recently responded to the outcry of unhappy students by restoring 160 free prints to students this semester. The funding for these supplementary prints, granted Feb. 6, came from auxiliary state money.

“The 160 free prints that we added combined with the 200 supplied in fall brings the quota up to 360 for the year, which is consistent with the overall 10 percent budget reduction experienced by the campus,” Jackson said in an announcement.

After the allowed number of free prints from prior semesters have been exhausted, each respective print will require students to spend the money stored on their Hornet Bucks, a debit account attached to the OneCard. Cardholders can deposit funds into their accounts through the value transfer stations located around campus.

If a student has unused prints at the end of the semester, the credits will roll over into the next semester, according to Information Resources and Technology’s website. Use of the laser printers for black and white pages remains at 4 cents per page; each color print is 40 cents per page. These policies remain in place despite the changes.

Printing lab assistant Linh Nguyen, junior engineering major, said many students were unaware of the amendments to the Printsmart service going into the spring 2011 semester.

“I had a lot of students coming in and saying, “Where’s my free print credits for the semester?'” Nguyen said. “When I told them about the policy changes made back in fall &- there were some that seemed understanding, but most were incredibly frustrated and disappointed.”

Senior computer science major David Donnelly uses the computer lab in Riverside Hall to print out assignments on a regular basis. Donnelly depleted his free prints last semester, as he has done many semesters before. It was not until this semester, when his OneCard remained at zero credits, that he realized a change had been made.

“Frankly, I think it sucks,” Donnelly said. “I understand that there’s substantial budget concerns, but I would really have preferred at least some sufficient warning beforehand.”

Jackson admits there seems to have been a lack of awareness, but claims that attempts to inform the students were made.

“We posted notices up in the computer labs after we made the policy change in fall, and have kept them up until spring,” Jackson said. “It’s either that some of the students weren’t reading them or just weren’t completely understanding their implications.”

In the future, the Information Resources and Technology department plans to collaborate with Associated Students Inc. in reviewing annual Printsmart funding and usage.

“We’ll be looking at possibly reducing the amount of supplied free print credits or increasing the amount that each print costs,” Jackson said. “It’s also probable that we’ll just stick with providing 160 free black and white prints per semester.”

Jackson said changing the 200 free prints per semester was a “temporary reaction to the budget problems” and that more “permanent solutions will be reached once our (Information Resources and Technology’s) team starts working with the ASI.”

Brett Johnson can be reached at [email protected]