At Bass Library, you can often find an anxious student struggling to print out homework amid jammed printers, low ink and empty PaperCut accounts. But, the last problem might soon cease to be an issue as Yale College Council’s new printing rebalancing plan goes into effect.

YCC, along with the Yale Printing and Publishing Services, have introduced a plan to lower printing costs by rebalancing prices over the next two academic years. At the helm of the project is YCC Student Life Director, Grace Kang ’21, and YCC Senators Fausto Hernandez Reyes Retana ’21 and Abhishek Srinivas ’21. Currently, the price of a single-sided page is ten cents, and the price of a double-sided page is twelve cents. By the fall of 2020, the price of a single-sided page will become six cents, while the cost of a double-sided page will stay the same.

“If we’re helping students by providing them internet, computers and textbooks,” Kang said, “why are we not providing them with paper to be able to print out their work?”

Kang said that during last year’s YCC election, where many of the campaigns focused their platforms on subsidizing student services. She noted that these ideas gained widespread attention from the student body, which highlighted the extensive support for such initiatives. Noting that the new initiative will particularly help low-income students, she emphasized that printing is something that is “integral for all students’ academic careers.”

After evaluating several peer institutions such as Princeton, Harvard and Columbia, YCC found that these other universities “have much more accommodating pricing models and policies regarding printing” compared to Yale, according to YCC’s 2018 Free/Subsidized Printing Report. The report found that Yale has the third highest estimated printing costs out of the ten institutions evaluated.

Hernandez said that YCC had initially considered having both printing and laundry costs become a part of Yale’s tuition. Kang added that though this would increase the overall tuition cost, it would not affect students on financial aid as their overall grant package would increase as well. But, she said that though this is the structure many peer institutions have in place, “trying to get the Yale administration to adjust their tuition is not a very easy thing to do.”

Srinivas noted that YCC had considered several other options to subsidize laundry costs — such as making the popular Yale Young Global Scholars summer program more expensive or creating an alumni fund for laundry. But, Yale administrators told him that changing laundry costs would not be feasible in the next two to three years. According to Dean of Student Engagement Burgwell Howard, it was too late in the university budget cycle to make any adjustments for the next fiscal year, but the Yale administration is interested in “exploring the funding model for laundry services.”

“The issues around laundry on campus are also complex,” Howard said, “but there is a sincere interest on the parts of everyone involved to improve the experience for students and residential college staff.”

Hernandez said that at first, the plan was to make printing completely free through a partnership with third-party company Freenters. According to the YCC report, Freenters — which would print advertisements from local businesses between the pages of students’ documents in exchange for free black-and-white printing — is already utilized at around 20 other colleges, including the University of Chicago. But, Hernandez said that by the time they had convinced Yale administration that it was an “excellent option,” the company had seemed to “disappear.”

According to Hernandez, YCC was hard-pressed to find suitable alternatives.  He added that because recent administration streamlining had already put a strain on YPPS’ budget, eliminating printing costs entirely was not possible. Rebalancing the costs between single-sided and double-sided printing ended up being the most viable short-term option.

“A lot of these changes seem to make a lot of sense intuitively, but once you do the numbers behind it, it works out to be quite a bit of money,” YCC President Saloni Rao ’20 said. “Yale’s money at the end of the day isn’t endless, and they have to find somewhere to get that money from.”

The price will decrease to eight cents for a single-sided page in fall 2019 and will decrease again to six cents in fall 2020.

According to the YCC email sent out to the student body about the change, this was done in order to allow YPPS to “adjust financially” to the change in rates, perform the necessary systemic maintenance and support Yale’s sustainability plan.

“[This] was just one facet of the discussions we had,” Hernandez said. “A lot of it was just sharing the printing experience with a lot of the administrators behind it, and they weren’t aware that it was a burden, that it was difficult for low-income students to secure a refund for it, and that the process was a little messy and opaque.”

While Hernandez said that this may seem like a small adjustment, he hopes that it will be just one of the many measures to improve printing at Yale. Burgwell emphasized that there is a “shared goal” of delivering student services in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible.

According to the 2018 YCC report, Princeton allows students to print up to 2700 black-and-white and 200 colored pages for free.

Alayna Lee | alayna.lee@yale.edu