Let students print for free

Hubert Ning

Right now, UT only offers free printing for its honors students and a few select majors, such as civil engineering. But many students outside of these groups can’t spare the extra funds necessary to use the UT printers. 

This shouldn’t happen.

The University needs to offer all of its students free printing. The sad reality is that printing is not a financial cost everyone can always afford, and while the University administration may not recognize this, the students have.

“I never liked having to ask someone else to print something for me,” electrical engineering senior Youchan Lee said. “But I have had to before.”

This is a common experience.

“I have had to print documents that my friends needed under my name before,” chinese studies and public relations sophomore Katherine Zhang said.

Unlike UT, other universities do offer free printing plans to all their students. The University of Michigan, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Houston each offer their students either a location with free printers or a semesterly renewed allocation of printer money.

“It’s not fair that honors students have access to resources that other nonhonors students don’t,” Zhang said. “A lot of UT honors programs admit students based off of standardized test scores and AP scores, and statistically there’s a correlation between test scores and income, so it really is a socioeconomic barrier.”

At UT, the printing service is divided into two systems: UTprint for residence halls and various other locations and UT Libraries Printing. However, both systems come at a cost for the students.

“UTprint is a self-sustaining service,” Veronica Trevino, UT Financial and Administrative Services media manager, said in an email. “This means no profit is made through printing purchases. Revenue received through use of the printers is used to pay for printer leases and to maintain print-related resources like printer paper and ink.” 

The UT libraries system does not make a profit from printing either, said Travis Willmann, UT Libraries communication officer.

Printing may not run at a profit for the University, but it also doesn’t for the universities mentioned above — and that hasn’t stopped them from offering their students free printing.  

But the decision to offer free printing wouldn’t come from UTprint or the UT Libraries.

“(Free printing) would be something the University (administration) would have to make a decision about,” Willmann said. 

The administration needs to recognize and address this issue. With the potential return to in-person classes in the fall, students will once again be relying on paper assignments. Because of financial impediments, the reliance on printing again will cause a strain on some students, hindering both their educational achievements and financial stability.

Unfortunately, administration was unable to provide a comment about the issue.

And while their hands may be tied by their budget, the printing services at UT do want to help. 

“(Free printing) is a service we would happily offer under any version of the funding,“ Chris Carter, UT Libraries’ director of organizational effectiveness, said. “We’d be happy to administer the service under any (allowed) terms.”

The libraries have been trying to help reduce costs for students by providing a free scanning option as an alternative.

“We made (scanners) free, because we’re trying to mitigate those extra costs that students have to contend with,” Willmann said.

But free scanners are just not enough right now. The greatest help would have to come from the University administration — and that’s by offering free printing directly.

Ning is an electrical engineering and history senior from Katy, Texas.