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Printing with a Papercut

Photo by Devon Walker

Students printing out assignments might have received a scare more than once during the past few semesters. When printing out anything from a computer terminal on NCC’s campus, a box on the right side of the screen counts down a monetary value with each piece of paper printed. Much of the NCC student body remains confused as to the box’s purpose and what happens when it reaches zero. Are they being charged for the service? If so, where is the money being taken from? Will they get a bill at the end of the semester which is somehow connected to their student ID number?

Deb Burak, NCC’s Chief Information Officer and Associate Vice President of Information Technology assures that these worries are unwarranted.

The program is called Papercut. It was bought and installed a year ago by NCC, though it is still in the testing and data collection period. Although they do not realize it, students have simply been seeing the data collection process.

The main goals of this program are to help lower the amount of paper printed at the college and prevent waste. Many colleges already use the program, which helps manage costs of paper printing, provides services for paper usage, and makes community users pay for what they print.

During the test runs, information is taken from each student’s printing habits and is put into a “quota” which compares it to previous years. In one year this system has already made a difference.

“When I looked last, I was impressed because 93 or 94% of students are in the quota range where they won’t have to pay,” said Burak. This is because 94% of students who use College printers are printing 300 pages or less. There has also been a 10% decrease in overall printing since the initiation of the data collection period.

NCC is still in the testing phase of the program, so no student will be charged.

If a student runs out of money or goes into a negative amount, they don’t have to worry because the money displayed in the box is just an estimate of how many papers will be printed. Burak said options are still being discussed as to what will happen when the final program is set and students go over the amount allotted.

The amount of available printing will not differ among students. Burak explains they are reviewing all of the data, including by major, to determine a universal and fair quota to assign to all students.

“We are also working with the sustainability committee to reduce printing, especially excessive printing,” Burak said.

Another topic being discussed is the use of college printing resources by community users who do not attend NCC.

When the final program is put into use, technicians will be available at all campuses for trouble-shooting purposes. If a student prints out a damaged or unusable paper, the technician can refund the money onto the student’s account so they do not lose the credit. They will be located mainly in the libraries and ITS Help Desks at Bethlehem, Fowler, and Monroe campuses.

Another feature being tested allows students to send documents to a NCC printer from anywhere, then review and release it from a printer kiosk on campus. The document will stay in the queue for several days (they are considering 3 to 5 days), and if it is not printed in that time period it will be deleted automatically with no charge to the student.

The final Papercut program is tentatively scheduled for installation in the Fall 2016 semester, but note the use of tentatively, as the date may be subject to change depending on the many facets of such a project. Students will be notified in advance of its institution, along with detailed instructions and information about how the program works.

An email was sent to students when testing the system first went live, but presumably due to the busy schedule of a college student this information was either forgotten or overlooked because of its lack of pressing academic importance. Burak and the team are considering sending out a follow-up reminder email to assuage qualms and decrease general teeth-chatting anxiety audible throughout the library and other printing stations.