ITF’s paperless plan aims to cut printing costs

A University-wide initiative to use less paper will be kicked into action next semester – a switch administrators say will slash expenses and increase sustainability.

The paperless plan, which University President Steven Knapp signed off on late last month, is part of the cost-cutting Innovation Task Force and could bank up to $600,000 in savings to be redirected to academics.

A completely paperless graduate admissions process, fewer paper-based course evaluations, more electronic syllabi and fewer printed copies of the University Bulletin are early ideas for reducing GW’s dependence on paper.

The Innovation Task Force – a group launched by University President Steven Knapp in 2009 to trim operational spending and funnel the savings toward academics – hopes to save $60 million per year after its first five years. In the last two years, the task force identified potential savings of $34 million by 2015.

Along with the paperless strategy, GW will move forward with five other cost-saving plans in the fields of customer service, cloud software utilization, undergraduate housing, internal consulting and facilities usage – the savings of which will total $5.1 million.

The paperless effort, still in the planning stage, will not be implemented until at least May 2012, Innovation Task Force co-chairman Craig Linebaugh said.

“One of the areas in which paperless can have an impact is in dealing with graduate applications, and there are others, related to various administrative processes,” Linebaugh said.

Eliminating paper can go a long way toward helping achieve a smoother student experience, Linebaugh said, while admitting that a certain level of paper consumption cannot be avoided.

Gregory Squires, a professor of sociology and public policy and public administration, was curious to hear details of the paperless plan, but said he already opts for online file-sharing instead of printing his course materials.

“I don’t suspect it will affect me much because I use Blackboard in all of my classes and put the syllabi on there,” Squires said.

The plan will also help the University in its efforts to be environmentally-friendly, a priority for Knapp since he founded the Office of Sustainability in late 2008.

“Reducing paper use at the University directly impacts the University’s waste and recycling footprint,” Sophie Waskow, project coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, said. “Obviously there are times when items need to be printed, but there are many efficiencies to be gained by converting to paperless solutions for many operations on campus.”

She added that the entire GW community would need to adopt paperless efforts in everyday activities for it to be successful.

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