College students are no strangers to the overwhelming cost of textbooks: about $1,200 per academic school year according to College Board.
Unfortunately, many students are unable to afford this expense and resort to not purchasing textbooks, leaving them underprepared and disadvantaged in competitive classes. The US Public Interest Research Group estimates that seven out of every ten college students fails to purchase at least one textbook due to high cost.
Last November, Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act to lessen the burden for students.
According to Congress.gov, the bill aims to give competitive grants to institutions of higher education (IHEs) to “support pilot programs that expand the use of open textbooks in order to achieve savings for students.”
Senator Durbin has already experienced success with an open textbook program at the University of Illinois. After securing funding for the University, the faculty worked to create an online format for “Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation,” a textbook that has now been accessed by over 60,000 students since its inception in 2012.
“This bill can replicate and build on this success and help make the cost of attending college more affordable,” said Durbin.
The drive for these grants is to make online and digital textbooks more widely available and free for the public. The content must be available on “easily accessible” websites and in a digital format that is can be downloaded, edited and distributed by anyone.
Certain criteria must be fulfilled in order to receive grants. Funding must be used for “professional development” of IHE staff who must search for and review all open textbook material as well as research the savings value of open textbooks.
Grants are also allocated to either creating new educational materials, mainly open textbooks, or modifying and developing current resources that grant access to the use of open textbooks. Congress will tend to award grants to applicants who demonstrate the ability to create the highest savings possible for students, assist other institutions in developing open textbooks and produce high quality materials for students.
Reducing the cost of textbooks could have a big impact on Boston College students.
“Last semester the bookstore wanted at least $150 for each of my textbooks,” said Renee Bichette, A&S '17.
Instead of paying $150 for one textbook, Eagles would be able to access the material online for free.
With approximately half of all BC undergrads receiving some form of financial aid, a reduction in textbook expenditures may be a big step toward making higher education more affordable.