By Jackie Orchard
Photo Credit - Jackie Orchard / ASP
Students waiting in line to print in the University Library
Printing services in the campus library could be heading for improvement this year, officials say. At UAlbany, it costs a student 10 cents per page to print in black and white, and 50 cents per page to print in color. Officials say the cost analysis may be ready for a re-visit.
“The pricing structure was developed several years ago,” says Brian Heaton, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at UAlbany. “So it’s not something that has been reviewed in the near-recent past.”
When the prices were originally decided, the intent was not for the school to profit, just to cover the cost of maintenance. But, things have changed.
“The usage patterns of printing has changed over the years,” Heaton says. “I’d say it’s probably not a perfect break-even amount at this time.”
At every school, printing is paid for in one way or another, whether it be built into the tuition cost or into a “technology” fee. But some SUNY schools seem to have lower rates than others.
SUNY Geneseo also charges 10 cents for black and white, but only 30 cents per colored page, compared to UAlbany’s 50 cents per colored page. Students at SUNY Geneseo also receive a 25 percent discount for opting to print their job double-sided, according to the school’s website.
SUNY University at Buffalo charges only 4 cents for black and white, compared to UAlbany’s 10 cents, and like Geneseo charges 30 cents per colored page, compared to UAlbany’s 50c per colored page.
SUNY Fredonia has even lower pricing, charging only 3 cents for black and white and 10 cents for color. In addition to this, students start each semester with $20 of printing money on their card.
It is difficult to truly compare without breaking down each school’s tuition fees, activity fees, and technology fees. Meaning, their printing prices may just look low because students are actually supplementing printing costs in another fee.
Heaton says at UAlbany, the printing service is completely paid for by the printing cost. In other words, the 10 cents you pay is what keeps the machines running, there is no other budget.
“There are servers involved,” says Heaton. “Licensing fees, printers, PCs for the print stations, the swiper devices, paper, toner, and all of that was taken into account.”
The several components also create multiple points of failure. If, for example, just the card swiper is down, the whole station is unuseable. Same for just the PC or just the printer. This can lead to longer lines and longer wait times to print.
Heaton says that part of the problem could be that students don’t know where all the print stations are. If there is a long line, he encourages you to ask the library staff where another station is.
Is it time for UAlbany to re-evaluate its whole printing system?
UAlbany communications officers say talks are underway.
“Internally we need to do an assessment of what it would cost,” Heaton says. “What are the current expenses of the printing service? And what options do we have from a technical perspective on offering a different type of service?”
Heaton says nothing is off the table and they are considering all options. Even the possibility of a completely new system.
“It could mean that we have to replace the software and infrastructure behind the printing service,” Heaton says.
ITS is still in the research phase, but hopes to move forward with a plan soon.
“I would think that it would be during the fall semester,” Heaton says. “It’s time for a 2019 price, and that’s why we made the internal commitment to go ahead and report on options for reducing that cost.”
Heaton says ITS is seeking the lowest cost while still maintaining quality service.
“We’re looking to provide an efficient service for the students to get in, submit their job, pickup their printout, and be satisfied with that utility service,” Heaton says.
If you have feedback to offer on the library printing system, or want to learn more, you can send an e-mail to CIO@albany.edu.