VSG launches Free Printing Program

Beginning Fall 2022, all undergraduate students will receive funds annually for printing on campus.

Printer located in Central Library, as photographed Aug. 16, 2022. (Hustler Staff/Mae Monette)

Mae Monette

Printer located in Central Library, as photographed Aug. 16, 2022. (Hustler Staff/Mae Monette)

Mae Monette, Senior Staff Writer

Starting Fall 2022, all undergraduate students will receive funding for printing as a part of the Free Printing Program initiated by Vanderbilt Student Government’s (VSG) Campus Services Committee and Vanderbilt’s Student Affairs. Per VSG’s website, $6 will be loaded to each student’s Commodore Card at the beginning of each academic year going forward, and students eligible for need-based aid will receive an additional $9. 

The printing allowance is distinct from Commodore Cash, according to VSG’s website. The funds can be used on any VUprint device for black and white printed pages, which are six cents per page, and color printed pages, which are 25 cents per page. It also states that the money will be automatically deducted from the VSG Free Printing Program funds, and unused funds will roll back to the university to fund the program the following year. Per junior and Chief of Staff Macy Su, VSG is making a one time contribution to help start the program, and the remainder of the program will be funded outside of VSG.

The reduced-cost printing initiative proposal was first presented to university administrators on March 14. Junior and VSG Campus Services Committee Chair Caleb Boyer wrote much of the proposal and said the desire to promote economic inclusivity on campus was an important factor in deciding to create the free printing program.

“Some people are very fortunate and don’t have to worry about the cost of printing at all, but that is not true for everybody,” Boyer said. “We know that at some other schools, printing is free, and there is also no reason why it shouldn’t be at Vandy.”

Su, who worked with Boyer to write the proposal, said reaching out to students at other universities with free printing programs was part of the process of forming Vanderbilt’s new program. Students at Duke University receive $32 per semester, which funds printing about 800 pages, and can request an additional $8 when their allocation falls below $9. Brown University students receive $30 per academic year, which funds about 430 pages, and Cornell University students receive $15 per academic year, which funds about 250 pages. 

“I think students may be a little bit dismayed that they are only receiving $6 of free printing, but it is honestly a great investment,” VSG Vice President Ari Sasson said. “It’s going to make the world’s difference for hopefully a number of students.”

According to the proposal, undergraduate students print an average of about 83 pages in black-and-white and 5 pages in color per year. $6 is equivalent to 100 pages in black-and-white, and the additional $9 provides 150 more black-and-white pages for students on need-based financial aid. 

“Once the program really picks up and we see that it’s successful and students are actually utilizing all of the copies that we give them, then we can expand some more, make it bigger, make it smaller, put in more money, put in less money,” Su said. “This is our guinea pig year, we’re going to see if it is actually as beneficial as everyone says it is.”

The concept of free printing has been a popular idea in VSG, per Sasson, and it was something Su and other previous senators tried to bring forward. However, Sasson also said that there have been concerns about the environmental impact of the program.

“There is a lot of pushback in free printing from the administrators themselves as well as fellow students. If you give unlimited free printing, that would go against environmental initiatives that Vanderbilt is trying to accomplish,” Sasson said. “Vanderbilt as a whole is very much against unnecessary printing.”

Boyer said formulating the free printing program was a team effort and included help from the Dean of Students Office, Division of Administration and the Commodore Card Office

“It may be a little bit surprising, but it really did not take that much work to make this [the free printing program] happen,” Boyer said. “It was honestly a very simple process, and a lot of that was thanks to Clayton [Arrington].”

Arrington, senior director for Student Engagement and Leadership, said the free printing program is a great example of VSG working with other Vanderbilt entities to support the student body.

“My hope is that this serves as an example of how to identify an issue and work with campus partners to implement a new program or enhance a service,” Arrington said in an email to The Hustler.

Su said she hopes that the program will benefit the entire student body, especially those who are under tighter financial constraints. 

“I am really excited to see how this can help change students’ academic experiences at Vandy and make things more equitable on campus,” Su said. “It’s definitely not a catch-all solution, but it’s a really great starting point.”

Some students said that the program put them at ease for the upcoming school year, citing instances of having to personally pay to print documents necessary for class.

“I always had to make sure I had like 63 cents in my Commodore Cash account in case a professor made me turn in a printed copy of an assignment,” junior Lukas Troost said in a message to The Hustler.

Similarly, junior Olivia Marco expressed excitement about the new free printing program and the funding it will provide separate from Commodore Cash.

“I am ecstatic about this recent announcement as I recall budgeting the final two dollars of my Commodore Cash for printing last semester,” Marco said in a message to The Hustler.