As a low-income student, I’ve always found textbook prices to be a barrier to my education. This year, I spent over $800 on textbooks. The time it takes to decide which ones I can afford based on my budget and how much I think this textbook is needed can impact each and every one of my classes.
While textbook expenses have been difficult for me to handle, they are still low compared to those of the average college student. According to the College Board, the average estimated undergraduate textbook budget for four-year public universities is $1250.
A program by Cengage could solve these problems. In August 2018, the textbook company will release a subscription service that allows students to access all their textbooks and online programs for only $119.99 a semester. UT professors need to consider adopting this subscription service to help alleviate soaring textbook costs.
According to Joey Williams, director of communications of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, professors have full discretion over the textbooks they choose to use in their class. However, the Texas Legislature still has requirements they expect the school to follow for selected textbooks.
UT follows House Bill 33, which says the school needs to ensure students have affordable course materials by making the textbook selection process transparent and by decreasing costs. All parties, from professors to administrators to the Co-op, are encouraged to participate in this process.
While the guideline does push for affordable textbooks, affordability is a subjective metric. Many students cannot afford to buy multiple textbooks that cost hundreds of dollars. Using the new Cengage Unlimited service could help bring UT closer in accordance with HB 33 by making textbooks more affordable.
The Co-op’s priority deadline for professors to submit textbook material is April 15 for the fall and summer semesters, and HB 33 requires the Co-op to release textbook information at least 30 days before classes begin. If professors switch over to Cengage materials before that date, students can use Cengage Unlimited in their classes.
An NBC investigation found in 2015 that textbook prices have risen 1,041 percent since 1977. That’s three times the rate of inflation. Since students must purchase their assigned textbooks, they cannot prevent these rising costs.
The more professors who choose to switch to subscription services, the more effective these services can be at saving students money.
Few people want students to pay insane prices for textbooks, and by working to use subscription services, professors can work to significantly lower the cost of higher education for all college students.
Treuthardt is a journalism and marketing sophomore from Allen. Follow him on Twitter @JamesTreuthardt.