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Wednesday October 5th

'We were used to snagging them on the way to class': Exam materials haven't always cost money

<p>Students currently have to buy scantrons and blue books from the Student Store, but they were previously free to students.</p>
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Students currently have to buy scantrons and blue books from the Student Store, but they were previously free to students.

This is part of a series of stories looking into different parts of UNC’s long history and how life at the University has changed over time.

Many students know the familiar rush of running to the Student Stores to buy a scantron minutes before a midterm, but students in years past didn't even have to pay for them. 

University Archivist Nicholas Graham said blue books have been around for over a century.

“The University started using blue books, as far as I can see, in the 1890s,” Graham said. “They were clearly used for exams.”

Scantrons also have a long history, having been a part of UNC since before World War II.

“There was a University Testing Service that was using a machine rented in 1937," Graham said. "All we know is they were doing some sort of scanning of tests in, at latest, the 1930s.” 

While there is not much information available, Graham said he believes that historically blue books and scantrons were sold in campus stores. He said it is hard to tell exactly when they were given away, but they were sold through the 1960s and then again beginning in 2008.

Associate Director of Auxiliary Services, Chuck Sockell, said the stores started charging for scantrons and blue books in 2008 due to the increasing cost of materials. 

“While (the Student Stores) had been offering these materials for free as a service to students, as prices increased Student Stores decided they needed to charge a fee, particularly given that all proceeds from the stores go to student scholarships,” Sockell said in a statement. 

Tony Coggins, who graduated from UNC in 2009, said students used to grab scantrons and bluebooks from the counter of the stores. 

“Some of my friends acted aggravated by (the price change), but I don’t think anyone cared too much," Coggins said in a Facebook message. "The biggest problem was that we’d have to wait in the checkout line. We were used to snagging them on the way to class, and then we had to wait 5 to 10 minutes in line to get them.”

It was easy for students to get extra scantrons before the stores charged for them, said Amber Ortwood, who graduated in 2011.

“People didn’t have extras like they had when they were free,” Ortwood said in a Facebook message. “I didn’t see anyone ever taking stacks of them, but most people, myself included, always had a couple extra with them.”

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