The problem they were trying to solve: Free printing, more waste

Picture large trash barrels brimming with paper, overflowing discarded sheets littering the floor. That used to be the scene in the University of Cincinnati computer labs. “We were seeing huge amounts of wasted paper, with our computer lab assistants hauling away barrels of discarded printouts each day. The problem had grown steadily in recent years, due to the increase in online information,” explained their Technology Manager. Like many universities, the University of Cincinnati historically provided free printing for its 35,000 students, spending approximately $600,000 a year to allow them to generate as many documents as necessary to complete their coursework. Nearly 6.4 million sheets of paper churned through computer printers each year. Computer users clearly weren’t at all concerned about paper waste. So, they set out to find a way to reduce waste and its associated cost.

 

 

The Healthy Solution: Pharos Uniprint - "Think before you Print"

The University assembled  concerned administrators to discuss the rising cost of continued free printing. An informal survey of the University’s 17 colleges helped them to better understand campus-wide printer usage. They identified other universities that had installed printer management systems as a means of tracking and charging for student printing. His first step was to convene a campus-wide steering group of service providers to insure one solution across campus, as opposed to varied and different departmental solutions.

 

The University of Cincinnati already used the Blackboard Transaction System for its Bearcat online card program to process student payments on campus. They hoped to find a solution that would allow printing purchases to be added to the existing card. After discussions with several vendors, the committee moved ahead with a pilot test of Pharos Uniprint supplied by Blackboard, a Pharos reseller. They tested the solution on eight of the highest-use printers on campus. Positive feedback from the pilot test led the steering committee to recommend a campus-wide roll out.

 

Soon after the quarter began, rumors started swirling that the University was planning to charge students with high print costs beginning the following quarter. To address rising student concern over printing charges, the University developed a communications campaign to fully explain why it was implementing a printer management system and how exactly it would impact students.

“In just a few months, the change has been remarkable. We’ve seen a huge reduction in waste. With Uniprint, students only print what they really need, and they take whatever they print with them.”

 

One of the communication tools explained the new Uniprint solution and provided clear instructions on how the students would use it with their University ID card. In addition to explaining the logistics of the new system, the campaign made students aware of how much paper they wasted with the slogan, “Think before you print”. Conservation facts also helped to increase awareness and support for the University’s actions:

“2,831 trees are consumed by users of University of Cincinnati public printers in one year. 1,130 trees could be saved in one year, if users of University of Cincinnati public printers reduced their printing by 40 percent.”

The committee decided to roll the system out gradually. At the beginning of fall quarter, Uniprint was installed into several University computer labs, the public printers in Langsam Library, the Health Sciences Library, and at one location in University College. Students learned to use their Bearcat card to release print jobs to the printer. Although no fees were involved, this new step helped students adjust to a different routine.

 

With a goal of waste reduction and cost recovery, rather than revenue generation, the University installed Uniprint software on over 100 printers in the winter quarter, and announced a new charge of 7 cents per page effective February 1st of the next year. This fee covered the University’s paper, toner, and maintenance costs on the black and white printers, and was still 1 cent cheaper than a nearby Kinko’s.

 

 

The Results: Print volume drops nearly 72%

“In just a few months, the change has been remarkable,” says the University's Technology Manager.  “We’ve seen a huge reduction in waste. With Uniprint, students only print what they really need, and they take whatever they print with them.” The result is less waste, cleaner computer labs, smaller printing budgets, and satisfied students. The University uses Uniprint to automatically provide all students with 100 free prints each quarter.

 

Following the introduction of the Pharos Uniprint printer management system, paper volume declined 72% in just a few months. Based on results from the spring quarter, the University netted an estimated savings of more than $74,000 a year on paper and toner alone, effectively saving more than 2,000 trees in annual waste. Where students used to print more than 6 million sheets a year, that number dropped to under 2 million. Although impressive, Cincinnati’s story is typical of today’s technology-driven campuses.

 

The printer management system enabled student access to cost effective color printing on campus. Two color printers were installed on campus and set up with a cost of 50 cents per print. Because the cost of color printing is still so prohibitive, it would be tough for Cincinnati to offer it without the use of the Uniprint system to help recoup some of the expense.