According to the American Enterprise Institute, textbook costs have increased by 812 percent since 1978. At the University of Utah, the average cost of textbooks and supplies for students is about $1,000 a year, on top of $7,000 of in-state tuition fees.
Understanding the financial barrier of a higher education, the new University of Utah Academic Senate committee has made it their goal to help students by exploring options to make textbooks cheaper. The option they currently chose to pursue was to encourage the adoption of open-access textbooks for lower level courses. The committee is aiming to save each student about $500 a year on their textbooks.
Ethan Senack, a higher education advocate with the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), has championed open-access textbooks as an ideal solution for introducing more competition into the textbook market to help drive prices down. In the current textbook market, the buyers (students) do not make the purchasing decisions. They buy the textbooks their professors require them to obtain, which is usually from a selection of similarly priced $200 textbooks, and this removes the urgency for publishers to lower prices. The introduction of open-access textbooks have the potential to make the publishers offer more competitive pricing if they want their textbooks to continue being adopted in courses across the country.
The Academic Senate committee has stated they will look into other options to save students money, such as a textbook exchange, and continue to offer an online textbook price comparison tool and semester-long textbook rentals at half the price of a new volume at the university bookstore.
The committee is scheduled to report its findings in April 2014.
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