Does a College Student Need a Printer? (& How They Use It)

Close up of a woman hand catching a document from a printer on a desk at home
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In this day and age, it is understandable to wonder if you college students still need a printer.

In general, a college student needs a printer. Printed materials are easier to read, comprehend, and take notes on. Students will save time and money by having their own printers and not having to go to the library, Staples, or their college (which often still charges students for printer usage).

Buying a printer at the start of college will give you the option to print and will save you time and energy later on.

Let’s look at how college students use printers, the pros and cons of getting a printer, and the best printer you can get while on a budget (college is expensive enough already).

Click hereOpens in a new tab. to check out the most popular products for college students. 

Do I need a printer for online classes?

Many students don’t think they will need a printer for an online class. I get it; it seems like an oxymoron to get a printer for an online class. But the truth is a printer will still come in handy.

Students in online classes should get a printer. While a printer is not required for online classes since all assignments will be delivered and submitted online, there will be many times that students will want to print things such as their syllabus, essays to edit, notes, and readings. 

Do high school students need printers?

High school students are not required to have their own printers since the school should allow them to use their printers. However, it is convenient for high school students to have access to a printer at home so they do not have to rely on the school’s printer being free and working.

How do college students use printers?

College students use printers to print their syllabus, class notes, slides, and study guides. Students may want to print essays so that they can edit them with a pen or readings so that they can get away from their screen and have access to them offline.

They may also need to print things for their records, such as tuition statements.

There are times when you might just prefer to hold a printed material in your hand.

Majors like English, History, Creative Writing, Political Science, or Psychology that are reading and writing intensive will require more printing.

I printed out things that were denser, such as studies in academic journals that I was going to be quoting in an essay or for a literature review.

It was nice to be able to lay the pages out and highlight, underline, make notes all over. I would have never been able to absorb and plan my analysis with the articles as PDFs of seemingly endless text.

For “open book” tests, I printed out any lectures or online readings that I wanted to be able to use on the test. That way, I didn’t have to worry about moving between tabs or that having multiple tabs open would slow down the internet.

Check out all the benefits of Prime StudentOpens in a new tab.. Click hereOpens in a new tab. to sign up for Prime Student.

Pros and cons of buying a printer for school

I think online students should get a printer, but you need to decide for yourself if you think it is worth it. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros of buying a printer for school

There are a lot of benefits to having a printer. Let’s look at some of the reasons why a student needs a printer.

Having a printer is convenient

Having a printer is convenient. Considering all the ways discussed above that you might want to use a printer throughout college and that there are affordable options, buying a printer is worth it.

Printed material is easier to comprehend  

StudiesOpens in a new tab. have found that reading comprehension is better when reading printed materials than when reading digital materials. One reason for this is that people associate screen time with social media or surfing the web where we skim. That is why people have a harder time focusing on reading comprehension when on a digital device.

It has also been found that it is easier to recall something that we read on paper.Opens in a new tab.

Digital material can be distracting

Reading on a laptop, tablet, or phone also comes with more distractions. A text or email can pop up, and you can easily take a break and go on social media. Since reading printed materials is free from any distractions, it is easier for people to focus.

Reading everything on a screen can cause eyestrain and headaches

Reading from a screen for a long time can lead to eye strain and headachesOpens in a new tab.. As an online student, you will have to spend a lot of time in front of your computer screen. You may want to print out some things to give yourself a chance to work without staring at a screen.

Blue light blocking glassesOpens in a new tab. can also help prevent eyestrain and headaches caused by excessive screen time.

Having a printer saves time and money

If you end up needing things printed (which you inevitably will want to print some things while getting your degree), going somewhere to have them printed takes both time and money.

Stopping by the school, library, or Staples might not seem like it takes a lot of time, but the time for those errands adds up over the years you are in college.

It is also not cheap to have things printed. Many schools charge students to print items at their computer labs or libraries. For example, the U of I charges students $0.07 for black and white and $0.30 for color.

My library charges $0.25 per page for black and white and $0.40 per page for colored. StaplesOpens in a new tab. charges $0.17 per page for black and white and $0.59 per page for colored.

This will add up quickly.

Cons of buying a printer for school

It is not required to have a printer for online school. So make sure you consider the cons and see if they are a big enough deterrent before you buy a printer.

Your school might offer an allotment on printer usage

If you are an on-campus student, your college may offer an allotment of printer usage before they start charging you.

However, many colleges no longer offer this, so you should check with your school before you decide if buying a printer is worth it to you.

Printers take up space

If you are very limited on space or live a nomadic lifestyle, then having a printer may not be feasible.

Environmental concerns of printing

Printing is not environmentally friendly if you can do everything online.

Printers and printing is not cheap 

Printers are not cheap. In addition to the initial cost of buying the printer, ink and paper are expensive, and they will be a reoccurring cost.

If your space is very limited or you cannot afford a printer right now, then you do not have to buy one. You can get through online courses without one.

If you don’t have a printer and you do need to print something, you have several options:

You can print from the library, staples, or any office supply store, but consider the cost. You can also have things printed and sent to you by sites like LuluOpens in a new tab. (sign up for their newsletter because they send out discount codes), Cheaper CopiesOpens in a new tab., or Best Value CopyOpens in a new tab..

These sites offer good deals, but you won’t get whatever you want printed right away, so this is better for things like printing a planner than for printing out an essay or something for you to read.

How much does a printer cost?

Printers can cost between $50 to over $500. On average, a nice printer will cost about $200. However, you can find many good printers for $100 or less.

This may seem like a lot of money (it does to me too), but keep in mind that a printer should last for years.

When factoring the cost of a printer, you should also consider the cost of ink, which can be expensive.

Options to save money on ink:

  1. If you have an HP Printer, look into HP’s Instant Ink.
    • They offer plans based on how many pages your print each month. You can change your plan based on how much you are printing, and a certain amount of pages carry over month to month.
    • You pay a monthly fee ($0.99 for 15 pages a month up to $24.99 for small businesses that would print 700 pages a month) and allow HP to monitor your activity.
    • Your printer will tell HP when you are low on ink, and they will send you new cartridges and a return envelope for you to recycle the old cartridges.
  2. Look into in-store ink refills from Staples, Best Buy, Target, Walgreens, or Walmart.

You can also save money on paper by utilizing the Staples Paper Sale. It is usually for one week at the beginning of August, where Staples offers paper for $.01 a ream (500 sheets).

Features to look for in a printer:

  • Compatibility: Ensure that the printer is compatible with your operating system (Mac, Windows, or Linux).
  • Colored: Get a color printer. Even if you think you will only be printing black and white, you don’t know what will come up. You may want to print PDFs with colors, images, or color-coded things. If you are going to have a printer, you want the option to print in color.
  • Wireless: Get a wireless printer. It makes it so much easier to just click print.
  • Multifunction printer: You will be surprised how much you will scan or make copies. It doesn’t increase the size or the cost too much, and you will absolutely use it.
  • Ink price: Check how much the ink costs and how many pages you can print with each ink cartridge. Compare how much the ink is per printed page.

Laser vs. Inkjet: Consider if you want a laser printer or an inkjet printer.

Laser printers melt toner powder onto paper, and inkjet printers use ink.

I don’t have any experience with laser printers, but they are rated highly.

They are more expensive, but each toner cartridge can last for years and thousands of printed pages, so you can end up saving money by totaling up how much you save on ink. Keep in mind that color laser printers tend to cost more. You can find cheaper laser printers on Craigslist.

Best printers for college students

If you are wondering, “What printer should I get for college?”, let’s look at 2 printers that I think are best for college students.

Best on a budget: HP DeskJet 2755e Wireless Color All-in-One PrinterOpens in a new tab.

Opens in a new tab.

I have had great experiences with HP printersOpens in a new tab.. I have had the same HP printer since High School, and it still works great.

This HP DeskJet 2755e Wireless Color All-in-One PrinterOpens in a new tab. has all the features you need, plus 6 free months with Instant Ink, for under $80. You can’t beat that!

Best to save money on ink: Epson EcoTank ET-2720 Wireless Color All-in-One Supertank PrinterOpens in a new tab.

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If you can afford the upfront cost right now and want to save money on ink over time and help reduce waste, the Epson EcoTank PrinterOpens in a new tab. is the way to go. With this printer, you refill the ink cartridges yourself. I have only heard good things about this printer.

Now you know why you need a printer for online classes and the best printer to get. Share this with your friends that are also wondering if they will need a printer.

To find out what else you need for online classes, check out my guide on Everything You Need for Online College: School Supply ListOpens in a new tab..

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