David, we set up a cost center called "Student Billing System Charges", an constrain every student to it. They can use it at any Pharos-enabled MFD on campus, and we then do a roll-up billing monthly that produces a file we send to the Student Billing Services. They post the charges to the student's account, the student can pay through their portal, and we get a monthly clump of funds from SBS. At the end of the year, they let us know who didn't pay, and how much, and I authorize the money to be reimbursed. We're doing about $12K/year (next to nothing!) this way, and have less than $500 going back to SBS at the end of the year.
Students only account for about 2% of our copying; they have access to printing labs at the library with which we don't compete (our library Pharos MFDs are not set up to print), and they have access at computer labs through our Learning Technologies group. They pay to play at both places, at rates higher than ours, but we don't have access to the computers to connect to our system so we leave it alone.
We have a pay-to-print approach since the day we deployed the Uniprint software 11 some odd years ago. The general print paradigm is that a patron submits a job to the print queue. They go to the print release station (workstation running pharos station software), login with their username/password and swipe their payment card (usually student ID). Select the one, or more, jobs they wish to print and then hit the print button. The Pharos screen does show the amount of funds they currently have on their card and and the cost of the selected print jobs. If insufficient funds are available they of course can not release their print job(s). We keep submitted jobs in the queue for up to 2 hours before purging them. This allows patrons with insufficient funds on their card to visit one of the value transfer stations around campus, or call the card office, to place additional funds onto their account, or purchase a generic print card.
Students currently pay a technology fee, which in agreement with student government, a portion of it goes towards providing a non-acumulating printing allocation (credit) each semester onto a print allocation on the students account that can only be used for the printing services. The credit is dollar, not page-count based. Depending upon the type of print attributes associated with the job will influence exactly how many physical pages each individual will end up each semester. Printing duplex B&W will result in more pages then simplex color. Each fiscal year we recalculate the full cost of providing the printing services and reset as needed the page pricing with adjustments based on print attributes (e.g. simplex, duplex, b&w, color, etc.) as appropriate. Since the printing allocation is automatically added to each student's account the week before the semester starts there is essentially no delay from the students point of view with accessing the printing service. Stasticallly speaking we have somewhere on the order of ~3% of all of our students using the entirety of their printing allocation with most using less than half. Student's can quickly and easily place additional funds onto their account at any time via several different methods. These funds are generic "campus bucks" which can be used for any services on campus that accepts it (e.g. vending machines, printing, bookstore, etc.)
Since we moved straight from a free-for-all to a pay-to-print printing model the reception was very good. Our business argument to support it was the shear volume of pages that ended up in the recycling bin from uncollected print jobs (promoting sustainability). We saw a huge reduction in unclaimed print jobs from the year before to the year after deployment. The other marketing strategies we used were:
- To convey the message there is no such thing as "free" printing that at most it was paid for indirectly by the patrons through lab or other tech fees.
- That each individual is now responsible for paying the cost solely for what they print/use and that no one was subsidizing anyone else's printing needs which is what happens when indirect print funding is used (e.g. a student that printed only 10 pages for the semester only pays for 10 pages, whereas the student printing out their thesis paper and printing a 500 page document pays a corresponding amount).
- It also reduces the amount of non-academic oriented print jobs (e.g. "for-sale" signs, etc.)
Good luck on your transition.
We went with the pay to print approach many years ago. To help smooth the transition with sent out notifications of the change a semester in advance. We then installed the release station and started requiring students to swipe their cards but still get free printing for a semester. We then implemented charging. We didn't really get a lot of complaints about it. We informed everyone up front that their technology fee never paid for consumables and very few of the available public printers. That switching to the pay for print approach would allow for more printers to be available, as well as newer equipment. Some of the equipment that was out there was very old and slow.
This year we are actually changing our model a little bit. Previously the individual departments had to buy everything and we would refund a portion of the money collected back to them each year. For years we have had a copier contract that is pay per print. No cost for the equipment, lease fees, toner, or maintenance. We only have to buy paper. So as part of our upgrade cycle, we started taking advantage of the contract for printing and are providing everything to the participating departments and paying the copier vendor out of the money collected and ordering paper for everything. It has been a big hit with the students because every device now offers color. It also saved our student copier program because so few students copy anymore, but adding the printer volume onto the copier the vendor doesn't mind having 10 devices in a building because they are generating revenue no matter if it’s a print or a copy.