There are so many pros and cons to owning a printer in college. It was one of the only decisions that gave me trouble up until the day of move in when I went to college my freshman year. There are tons of factors to consider like how much space it will take up, resource availability for refills, and how often you’ll use it. Then of course there’s cost. Here are some quick, estimated figures for the average costs you’d be dealing with:
Ink Cartridges: Around $30 on a good day
Printer Paper: Also around $30
Printer: Range from ~$60-$170 generally
It’s worth noting that paper can last forever depending on the size of the pack, but cartridges can have pathetic life spans. You’ll probably be buying those much more often. Printers, however, vary. The cost depends on the need. An all in-in-one printer will have scanning and copying capabilities, which not everyone needs. As someone who takes a lot of essay-heavy classes I have only needed to scan/copy something once or twice. If you don’t have a printer most school have a copy center that provides those services for students with reasonable rates. There’s also a difference between laser and inkjet printers. Laser is cheaper and works great if you only plan to print in black and white (like for essays). Inkjet is slightly more expensive, but you gain better quality for printing images. It may seem like you’ll never need to do this, but anything can happen in college and you’ll suddenly need 20 pictures of corgis to hang around campus.
Before going any further, I will say that I have my own printer that I keep in my dorm. I brought one freshman year that got me all through high school, but it died near the end of last semester. I’ve since bought a new one – an Epson Inkjet that has served me well. My reasoning for going out of my way to make sure I have my own printer was mainly convenience. If I have a six page essay due and leave the concluding paragraph until an hour before the class (which I tend to do) I don’t want to worry about making it to the library in time to print it. Plus sometimes other students are doing the same thing and there are no computers open.
That being said, there are still days when I trek to the library to print. College printing rates are actually pretty nice. At my school we pay $0.07 per page, and some schools have even lower costs. If I’m in the library already and don’t want to remember to print when I’m in my room later, I’ll hop on a computer and do it there. I also have a class that requires me to print multiple copies of weekly essays that are usually about 3 pages long. Like I said before, ink is expensive and for my location it’s rather out of the way for me to buy. I don’t always want to use up my ink on 9-12 page print jobs, so I’ll shell out $0.63 to cover it. If I were to exclusively use school printers that semesterly cost could easily add up, but if you’re short on cash it’s the more economical option.
It all comes down to personal preference. I love the freedom and flexibility having a printer gives me, and it’s a device I continue to use outside of school as well. But relying on school printers is a smart option as well, especially if money is a significant issue. For big projects that require high quality prints, maybe in large formats, definitely look into your school’s copy center which should be able to cover a range of printing mediums.