Logan Dobson: The costs of lower printing costs

At first glance, reducing the cost of printing makes a lot of sense – or cents? Everyone wishes printing was cheaper, everyone hates having to swipe their money away, and it seems easy to cut this 9 cent fee down.

But really, the idea of cutting just about any fee at this University comes down to just one question: Do we really think that GW isn’t going to get its money?

This University is serious about generating revenue. And while we did just fall off the top 10 most expensive universities list, there really isn’t any reason to expect GW will get cheaper.

Why should it, after all? GW provides a large amount of financial aid and is saddled with more than $1 billion in debt. That means that GW needs revenue, and lots of it.

Sure, 9 cents per page is a bit high. But if we assume that GW is going to get its money one way or the other, what’s the alternative? It could find some other fee to increase, but would that make anyone happier? Of course not.

If somehow the Student Association pressures the University into lowering printing costs, I think the University would probably just take whatever revenue is lost from that cost reduction and put it right back into tuition increases. This is unfair on two levels.

First of all, user fees are more fair than a broad-based tuition increase. After all, no one at GW is forced to use the University’s printing services. The only people who pay our printing fees are the ones who choose to. Why should the broader, non-printing population have to provide a subsidy for people who don’t want to own their own printer?

Secondly, GW’s fixed tuition system means that it wouldn’t even be students who would deal with this increased cost. The real victims of a printing price reduction would be incoming students, who would have this cost built into their tuition. It’s a nice thought – we could reduce our own printing costs and not even have to pay for it! But is that fair? I think not.

And, for that matter, it’s not like printing at GW is prohibitively expensive to begin with. I have no numbers to back this up, but I’d wager that the average GW student needs to print maybe 70 pages per semester. But hell, let’s assume that you need 100 pages a semester. The math is easy to do – 100 pages per semester times eight semesters, over a four-year career, times nine cents per page? That’s $72, which is cheaper than just about any printer you can purchase – and we’re not even taking ink into account.

There’s an old saying: If it ain’t broke, someone in the SA Senate is trying to propose a resolution that might fix it. Well, it’s something like that. Printing costs at GW are annoying, yes, but they’re not prohibitive. We all know that GW will end up charging someone for the revenue it loses from a reduced printing fee. The current system might not be desirable, but it works, and it’s better than the alternative.

If you’re serious about reducing the amount that GW charges, the real focus should be on reducing the amount that GW spends. At some point, we should admit that we don’t need another new building. And that we have enough dorms. And that maybe, just maybe, freshman don’t actually need beach towels. But as long as GW insists on spending as profusely as it does, the students are going to pay for it – one way or another.

-The writer, a senior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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