Chris Jenkins studies math in the TRiO STEM tutoring center
Second year engineering major Chris Jenkins studies math in the TRiO STEM tutoring center in Building 12 on Nov. 3, 2015. Photo by Justin Cox / theTorch

National bill seeks to make textbooks more affordable

Since 1980, college textbooks have increased by 812 percent — that is higher than inflation and the actual cost of tuition reports Mark J. Perry, economics professor at the University of Michigan.

In an attempt to curb this trend, senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN) and Angus King (I-ME) introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act to the House of Representatives on Oct. 8.

The act proposes the creation of a grant program to which universities and colleges across the country may apply. If awarded, institutions will obtain materials which are available for free online for anyone to use, also known as Open Educational Resources. Colleges who get this grant money would receive it under the condition that the institutions report on the effectiveness of their resources to the Government Accountability Office.

The bill also hopes to make publishers ease up on their book pricing and sell each textbook individually instead of in bundles. The Government Accountability Office will report back on the state of textbook costs by 2017.

At the state level, Oregon House Bill 2871 passed and went into effect July of this year. The bill established open educational resources by setting several thousand dollars from the state’s general grant to be distributed to any college or universities to use in order to obtain OERs.

“Some of my textbooks are more expensive than the classes I am taking,” Cristian Martinez, biology major, said, who supports the idea of open textbooks. “It is better than paying out of pocket for textbooks that you usually use once.”

In Spring of this year, ASLCC denied a funding request of $3,600 to purchase textbooks for a kick-starting rental program.

When asked why the student senate denied this request, Eli Emeigh, Lane’s Oregon Student Association campus organizer, explained the Senate did not want to support the use student tuition dollars to pay for more books. He explained the Senate would rather focus on looking into OERs already available for students.

“Any bill or any policy that in some way allows students to access materials at no cost is always good with me,” ASLCC Senator Mariana Paradones said.

Paradones helped distribute surveys regarding textbook prices, joining surveys completed from all over the state in 2014. The information collected was presented to state legislators asking for action for these rising college textbook prices.

The Lane chapter of Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group focused on the rising textbook prices after noticing in 2007 textbook prices were rising four times the rise of inflation.

“College education costs too much,” Ben Jelensky, OSPIRG campus organizer, said. “We see that textbook costs 40 percent of the tuition students pay to go to community college.”

Open Textbook Library and Open Stacks are websites open for anyone to upload personal or class material libraries which are distributed and accessible by students or anyone else within the public. Their distribution is protected through creative commons licensing.

“It would benefit our society more than it would hurt it. It makes good use of our taxpayer money,” Abigail Cox, business major, said regarding the use of taxpayer money for OERs.