New bill can be solution to rising textbook prices

Mohammad Syed

It’s no question that of the many problems college students have to face, affordability is one of the most daunting. Earlier this month, UT Board of Regents announced a 2 percent increase in tuition for the upcoming school year. Beyond just UT, on average, tuition has increased by 146 percent for both private and public colleges over the past 30 years. College tuition in America is expensive, and it’s often the very thing that determines where the student chooses to attend school.

The problem doesn’t end there. Beyond just tuition there exists hidden costs which further burden students.

College textbooks are often an obligatory purchase for students. On average, these textbooks cost around $1,200. According to an analysis by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the prices of textbooks have increased by 82 percent from 2002 to 2012.

To combat the high prices, systems have been created where students have the ability to rent textbooks, however many feel such programs are not enough.

There might be a solution, however. Two weeks ago, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, Al Franken and Angus King introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act to Congress. If passed, the bill will allow all universities to provide textbook content online for free. 

Under the bill, universities would have the ability to receive government grants to create an open textbook system in which all content would be online.

The benefit of such a system has many folds, including the ability for professors to modify online content to make the open-sourced textbook more aligned with their own course. This allows the textbook to be more tailored toward the course. Such a program would help students save an enormous amount of money. 

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group estimates the bill could collectively save students approximately $1 billion per year. In addition to cost decreasing, through open-source textbooks, academic attainment is seen to increase. A study of the Virginia State University’s School of Business found that those with open-sourced online textbooks earned better grades.

While high textbook costs isn’t the only thing making college unaffordable for many, such a bill could serve as the impetus for reducing college prices. Passing this bill could get the ball rolling and eventually make college affordable for everyone.

With benefits ranging from huge cost reduction to better academic achievement, it’s imperative that students all over the nation urge their congressional leaders to back the Affordable College Textbook Act.

Syed is a biochemistry freshman from Houston.