College Computers: What about a Printer?
Printing capability is essential at college - students will need to print out papers, assignments, notes, etc., often at strange hours. While many schools provide network printing capability so that students don't have to bring a printer, this is a mixed blessing.
In a corporate environment, printer sharing makes a lot of sense. The printer is often a few steps away from the employee's desk, and everyone benefits by the firm buying one fast, high quality printer instead of a raft of inexpensive personal printers. In a dorm environment, though, networked printing is often far less convenient. The network printer may be located in a basement computer cluster, for example, while the student's room may be several floors above. In this situation, the student can't see the printer to determine if it is working, if paper is loaded, etc. Even if everything works, by the time the student gets to the printer to collect her output, another student may have accidentally taken it. Running back and forth to the dormitory basement can be great exercise, but it is also frustrating when working against a deadline.
In addition, we have all experienced the annoyance of printing a final version of a document only to realize that a minor formatting element is wrong and the document must be reprinted. When the printer is several floors away, the inconvenience becomes much greater.
We suggest that any student bringing a computer should also bring an inexpensive printer. The most common choice is an ink-jet printer. These offer good print quality and very quiet operation, although ink cartridge replacement can get costly. There are also personal laser printers. These cost more, but offer the advantages of very high quality black and white printing and long-lasting cartridges with lower cost per page printed. Laser printers tend to take up more space than ink-jet printers.
Either way, we highly recommend accompanying any college computer with a printer.