U.S. Representative Jared Polis

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Polis’s plan to make textbooks more affordable gets praise from faculty and students, alike

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Washington, September 26, 2017 | comments

Washington:  Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act today, as part of his plan to make college more affordable.  The bill expands access to free, high-quality textbooks, earning praise from faculty and students at Front Range Community College.

According to College Board, the average student budget for college books and supplies during the 2016-17 academic year was $1,250.  According to a survey by U.S. PIRG, 65 percent of students decided not to buy a textbook because of the cost, and 94 percent of those students worried it would negatively affect their grade.

"To reduce the skyrocketing cost of college, we have to think about everything from tuition to textbooks.  Textbook costs on top of tuition truly add up and can mean the difference between going to college or being priced out.  My bill removes barriers to free, online textbooks, helping students save money, while getting the best, most up-to-date content.  It’s really page one in addressing college affordability,” said Polis.

The bill would create a competitive grant program to support the creation and expansion of open college textbooks -  textbooks that are available under an open license, allowing professors, students, researchers, and others to freely access the materials.

Front Range Community College has been on the forefront of using open textbooks as a more affordable option for students.  

“The mission of community colleges, among many things, is to provide open access to education for our citizens to help them improve their lives through learning. However, skyrocketing costs of textbooks have made it difficult for many students to achieve that goal. Open Education Resources (OER) and open textbooks help us alleviate this burden of cost that many of our students, particularly our first-generation, single-parent, and students from low-income families feel,” said Niroj Bhattarai, Chair, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Front Range Community College.  “I started searching for OER and open textbooks after I had a few students cry in my office because of the high costs of textbooks and their inability to purchase them—that was impediment to the success of our mission.”

Bhattarai has since increased the use of open textbooks in his economics classes at Front Range.  

“From my experience in working in the bookstore, I've heard a lot of feedback from students pertaining to the cost of, availability, and platform of textbooks these days. Having easy access to free textbooks has generated a reaction of relief or delight from students. Removing that burden from students helps them focus more on how they will succeed in their academic pursuits by giving them the space to focus on what they need to do to succeed having the formalities out of the way,” said Nadine Nehme, student, Front Range Community College.   

The Affordable College Textbook Act specifically:

  • Creates a grant program to support pilot programs at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for those programs that will achieve the highest savings for students;
  • Ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using program funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public;
  • Requires entities who receive funds to complete a report on the effectiveness of the program in achieving savings for students;
  • Improves existing requirements for publishers to make all textbooks and other educational materials available for sale individually rather than as a bundle; and
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress with an update on the price trends of college textbooks.

The Affordable College Textbook Act is supported by U.S. PIRG, Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, National Association of College Stores, Association of Big Ten Students, Young Invincibles, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Service Employees International Union, American Association of Community Colleges, Association of Community College Trustees, UNCF, Creative Commons, Association of Research Libraries, Salt Lake Community College, and the Association of College and Research Libraries.

The bill is co-authored by Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Angus King, and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. 

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Tags: Education

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