With the price of higher education at an all-time high, CalPIRG and the UC Davis Bookstore have worked together to introduce two alternative methods to purchasing textbooks: a rental program and online open source texts.
Open source textbooks provide a free online alternative through e-books and PDFs. Professors would be able to write their own texts and post them online at no cost to students. These texts can also be printed, cutting the average cost of textbooks from $900 to $184 a year.
To create an incentive for professors to write their own textbooks, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Open College Textbook Act last year. This would create a competitive grant program for professors who write open source books. It is imperative that this act passes. As of now, it is unrealistic to have professors write textbooks without some kind of incentive.
The rental program allows students to rent textbooks for a fraction of the purchasing price by loaning out books and requiring them to be returned by the last day of that term’s finals. Instead of an average $900 a year, renting lowers the price to $598, a 34 percent reduction.
While the savings are appealing, other numbers suggest these programs are only short-term remedies. A study by Student PIRGs showed 75 percent of students surveyed would rather have print than digital textbooks. Only 34 percent would rent all of their books, while 93 percent said they would rent some.
It is encouraging to see efforts to lower the price of higher education with alternative programs for textbooks. Rentals offer students the option of saving money, while still having the actual text in hand.
Open source texts also have potential to provide financial relief. Even if students do not want to read texts off the computer, they can print their own copies of books at a cheaper price than buying them. Online access texts also lessens each student’s carbon footprint.
Government help is necessary to kick start this program. If the federal government is not willing to provide financial backing to institutions of higher learning, they could pass this act to help students.