Monday, February 10, 2014

Report: Cost of Textbooks a Roadblock To Learning

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The rising costs of college tuition, room and board aren't the only financial obstacles to higher learning, according to a new report, which finds that soaring textbook prices are keeping some Pennsylvania students from getting the most out of college education. 

According to Ethan Senack, higher-education associate with the Public Interest Research Group, the average cost of a college textbook has risen 82 percent in the past decade, to nearly $200 per volume, which, for students, can mean $1200 per year.

"When students are doing their best to earn a degree within four years, they should be focused on taking the classes they need to earn their degree, not tapped out because they have to choose between a textbook and rent," Senack declared.

The report says that despite the increased prevalence of rental programs, used books and e-books, 65 percent of students have opted out of purchasing a book for a class, with nearly all reporting they suffered academically as a result. The full report is available atUSPIRG.org.

Senack said the good news is that students are ready for alternatives to the traditional textbook model. The report proposes more universities embrace the use of "open" textbooks, which are faculty-written and peer-reviewed, but published under an open license. They're free for students to read online or download and print.

"There's a tremendous potential to save students money and give them the access they need to the textbooks they're required to buy for their course, without breaking the bank," he said.

Open textbooks typically cost from $20 to $40 to purchase a hard copy. Legislation to authorize grants to create and adapt more open textbooks has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House, but the bills face stiff objections from the traditional publishing industry and haven't made it to the floor of either chamber.

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