Universities suffering from “Paper Cuts”

In these troubled economic times, lots of universities are forced to cut spending wherever they can, and unfortunately office supplies are often first on the block. While it might seem like a few sheets of paper here or there don’t make much difference, new articles show the results of these cutbacks can be worse than originally anticipated. An article recently posted in The Central Florida Future, the University of Central Florida student paper, shows that cutbacks to office supplies are having a damaging effect on the way professors teach:

Humanities professor Debra Maukonen can no longer allow students to keep their tests as study tools because she has to collect them due to the recent cut in paper.

These changes are part of an effort to cut back on office supplies because of decreased budgets.

The lack of office supplies “makes it more difficult for instructors to do their jobs,” Maukonen said. “In the larger picture, it’s more than paper — it’s people.”

She said a smaller budget means just what students are seeing now: reduced faculty, staff and services; reduced course offerings; reduced face-to-face classes and more online classes; larger class sizes; and an higher student-teacher ratio.

“I know we are saving trees and money by going paperless, but I am seeing a difference in teaching,” Maukonen said.

The trend towards a paperless office has seen huge strides in recent years with the advancement of technology, and in certain places it works wonders for helping an office “go green” and cut back on costs. But it seems like in a university setting cutting the office supply budget is only hurting students.

At UCF, last year, office desk accessories, such as organizers and calculators, totaled around $164,500, and mailing supplies totaled about $34,000. This year, the totals dropped to about $83,800 and $11,900, respectively. Print, copy and fax supplies had the biggest budget for the two years. Last year, they cost the university about $182,800. That number was nearly cut in half for this year to about $94,600.

I think it’s important for universities to consider the impact of slashing budgets on the quality of education they can provide. Rather than unilaterally make huge sweeping cuts, institutions need to consider their options when picking an office supply retailer. Any self-respecting office supply dealer will offer bulk pricing on office supplies, as well as make special deals for educational and governmental institutions. It’s all a matter of shopping around for the best deal, and I can only hope that a university will exhaust all other options before making budget cuts that may harm students.

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