As the new school year begins, teachers and administrators are looking for ways to save time, cut costs, and reduce waste. Digital document management can save schools tens of thousands of dollars and countless precious hours a year, improve the teaching and learning experience, and make environmental initiatives more achievable.

Naturally, schools are full of necessary documents, but teachers and administrators waste valuable time and money printing, filling out, sending, and storing paperwork. While digital document solutions are an appealing alternative and gaining traction, many American education workflows still rely on time-consuming, error-prone pieces of paper.

It can be easy to keep doing things in familiar ways, and it’s not always clear exactly how the numbers break down or how different options fare in a detailed comparison. This article does the work for you to explore just how much time and money digital paperwork management can save your school and teachers.

The high costs of printed paper

According to a report by Record Nations, a typical school uses an average of 2,000 sheets of paper per day. During a standard academic year of 160 days, a single school will use 320,000 sheets of paper. With roughly 130,000 schools in the U.S., this means the American education system uses 41.6 billion sheets of paper every year.

The sheer amount of paper is overwhelming, but it also comes at a staggering cost. The average sheet of paper costs about five cents, but schools’ high printing demands mean these costs are exceptionally high for resource-strapped institutions. At 2,000 sheets per day and 320,000 sheets per year, a school will spend $100 a day or $16,000 a year just on printing paper. So, in total, U.S. schools spend $2.1 billion on paper every year.

Many K-12 activities require printing, though, so limiting classroom resources isn’t the answer. However, limiting printing even by one-quarter for administrative activities could help schools preserve their financial resources while saving trees.

According to the carbon offset company 8 Billion Trees, a standard pine tree produces 10,000 sheets of paper. If the average-sized school prints 4 forms a week for 500 students, it will use 64,000 sheets of paper in a year, or the equivalent of nearly 6.5 mature pine trees just for administrative activities. And multiplied across 130,000 schools nationwide? That’s 845,000 trees downed every year for non-creative, standardized information that could easily be sent digitally.

Printing 64,000 administrative forms a year would cost schools $3,200 every year, or $416 million across all schools in the U.S. Reducing those 64,000 sheets of paper by just one-quarter (16,000 sheets) cuts these costs to just $2,400 a year — a savings of $800. This is just one reason why more schools are now embracing digital transformation to cut costs and save time. In fact, 65 percent of K-12 educators and 75 percent of higher education instructors believe digital transformation is very important.

Replacing paper-based processes and learning saves time and money — two resources that educators need today more than ever before, especially during a time of inflation and lingering economic concerns. Digital document management solutions can make teachers’ lives easier, save schools money, reduce waste, and improve digital transformation efforts.

Digital document solutions support teachers

Schools are facing budget cuts and funding shortfalls. In many cases, teachers are spending their own money on school supplies — such as paper and ink — to make up for these funding gaps.

In response to mounting pressure and costs, teachers continue to quit in high numbers. According to recent data, only about 20 percent of teachers are very satisfied with their jobs. In fact, 35 percent say they are very or fairly likely to leave in the next two years.

According to the Merrimack College 2023 Teacher Survey, 57 percent of teachers say their school district could better support their well-being with “fewer administrative burdens associated with meetings and paperwork.”

Digitizing the hundreds of pieces of paper that teachers process every day gives educators more of their time back. With digital document management, teachers can upload documents, search for documents, and instantly share documents with a single click. This technology even comes with features for viewing history and tracking, which isn’t possible with paper documents. Digitization also makes lost papers and forms a thing of the past.

Digital documents save schools thousands of dollars every year

Digital documents significantly reduce the costs associated with paper. There’s no need to pay for paper, ink, or postage with digital document management.

K-12 schools can see substantial cost savings with digital approaches. Every piece of paper replaced with a digital document saves schools an average of $13.50. Since K-12 schools have around 515 students, this means each school saves nearly $7,000 every time it uses a digital document instead of a paper document. In fact, the average K-12 school can save $120,000 a year with digital documents.

Yale University saw amazing results when its students and faculty went digital during the early days of the pandemic. The school experienced a 90 percent decrease in paper purchases and a 96 percent reduction in printing costs. It estimates that it saved $82,000 from February 2020 to April 2020 just by doing less printing. Year over year, Yale saved $105,000 in paper costs by going digital.

Not only does digitizing cut down on printing costs, but it also saves time. Teachers spend an average of three hours a week on administrative work and seven hours a week searching for materials. Switching to digital documents allows for fast file retrieval and greater accessibility, allowing educators to save more time.

How to embrace digital document management

From homework assignments, essays, and report cards to permission slips, onboarding documents, and procurement forms, paperwork remains at the heart of many school processes. But in the fast-paced and increasingly virtual modern world, where digital transformation and efficiency are vital for schools that continue to face funding challenges, digital document management solutions can make a meaningful difference for teachers and students.

In fact, students benefit tremendously from digital transformation. Approximately one-quarter of all homework is handed in late, and some isn’t done at all, but going digital can make it easier for most students to manage homework in a simple online portal. These solutions even create a digital log of students’ growth and can simplify everything from test reviews to skills assessments.

Digital document management benefits students, schools, teachers, and administrators in so many ways. Consider that 50 percent of educators believe easier access to information is the biggest benefit of digital transformation, while 42 percent point to operational efficiency and time savings. Adobe Acrobat delivers smooth, streamlined, effective document management solutions that do just that.

Using physical paper and manual processes costs more money, takes more time, requires more storage, produces more environmental waste, and introduces the potential for more errors.

Digital document management solutions enable schools to print less paper. In fact, Adobe users report a 63 percent reduction in paper use and costs. Digital document management also allows educators to gather and share feedback easily and comment and collaborate on homework and assignments effortlessly.

Digitization can produce as much as a 67 percent boost in back-office efficiency because schools can fill and sign forms faster. And solutions like Adobe Acrobat Sign can lead to a 72 percent improvement in data privacy and protection thanks to secure document storage technology. It even helps make digital files more versatile and shareable, bridging the gap between different technologies and speeding up processing by as much as 28 times.

Teachers and administrators need the best technology and digital tools to be engaged, efficient, and effective. For teachers and school workers whose jobs rely on paperwork, document workflow, collaboration, and security are essential — and mobile device document management is more important than ever before.

Ditch paper for good with digital document solutions

Teachers and school administrators benefit tremendously from digital document management solutions that save time and money. Digital transformation can save K-12 schools tens of thousands of dollars and countless precious hours a year, improve the teaching experience, and make environmental initiatives more achievable.

The modern school is more efficient and cost-effective, with happier teachers and less waste. Digital document solutions — like Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Acrobat Sign — enable the modern school. See how Acrobat for Education helps schools embrace a paper-free future.

Digital Documents