The hidden cost of college textbooks can be a surprise for many students in higher education. The cost may soon be a worry of the past if the Affordable College Textbook Act passes.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and Minnesota Senator Al Franken have worked together to create the Affordable College Textbook Act, hoping to provide some financial relief to college students. On average, students pay approximately $1,200 annually on textbooks, according to Peoria Public Radio.
The proposed bill will allow universities of all sizes, from community college to major universities, to provide the textbook content online to students free of charge. It is estimated that the cost of college textbooks has risen nearly 82 percent in the last decade alone, and doesn’t look to stabilize any time soon. With the constant flux of material within the textbooks needed to keep the information up to date, the cost of textbooks must be recovered up front, rather than using the same textbook for multiple years at a lower cost to recoup the costs.
The Affordable College Textbook Act will allow different means for colleges and publishers to recoup the cost, without placing the burden on the students.
If passed, Ethan Senack, of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, claims the Affordable College Textbook Act could save college students approximately $1 billion a year, collectively.
The method of allowing the free books would be demonstrated through the higher education institution’s ability to complete an application for government grants that would allow the creation of open textbooks, according to WISC-TV, resulting in digital materials that could be suitably modified to meet a specific college’s academic needs.
Senator Al Franken spoke about the issue and relayed his dismay that textbooks have become a major portion of collegiate debt that burdens students well after graduation.
“At The University of Minnesota they’ve started a program of open sourced textbooks and that is basically paying professors there to write textbooks and put them online and so that professors and teachers can use and students can use that material instead of a $150 text book.”
Free textbooks will go a long way toward lessening the debt of students, although it does not help those that study best with physical copies in hand. However, students may have the opportunity to download and print the textbooks, allowing them to highlight the physical copies. Another option would be to stock physical copies in the libraries, where students can check them out or read inside the library.
In addition to free college textbooks, Al Franken has drafted another bill that would force colleges to insert a net price calculator into financial aid web pages of each college, providing students with the ability to see how much the cost of attending school adds up over time, according to FOX 9 News.
“The net price calculator is simply a tool that you can use online when you’re thinking of applying to colleges… That a college can put up on its website and you can put in how much your family makes and all the factors that it asks for and it will tell you what it’s going to cost.”
Offering free textbooks, combined with the net price calculator, would enable students more freedom to plan their future after college. The lessened burden of unnecessary debt would allow graduates to make smarter decisions before and after graduation. There is no word of the impact that professor created textbooks, and the additional salary they would receive, will be on tuition costs, if at all.
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