My Turn: A step toward college affordability

Published: 12/27/2021 6:22:01 AM
Modified: 12/27/2021 6:21:34 AM

Textbook prices are skyrocketing. According to the College Board, the average student budget for books and supplements is over $1,200 each year. That is three times the rate of inflation.

Studies have shown that over 66% of students skipped buying textbooks for their classes because they could not afford them.

On average, students spend about $450 to $600 on textbooks per semester from their pocket. And it is not even part of the tuition along with other expenses like food.

At UMass Amherst, we students are taking a stand towards the unnecessary expenses and encouraging professors to use materials — for example, Open Education Resources. These are resources that are free to use, digitally accessible and can be modified without any restrictions. Many classes are already taking advantage of these resources and helping students save money.

In the last 10 years, UMass Amherst alone has been able to save students over $2.5 million on textbooks by replacing them with Open Education Resources — free digital textbooks that can be printed and modified with no copyright restrictions. Many of these resources currently exist and are already in use. With that, students are able to focus on studies, rather than worrying about selecting classes depending on the cost.

Grants fund the creation of new materials by professors, expanding the range of applicable courses. In the last eight years at UMass Amherst alone, $160,000 in grants have driven $2 million in student savings on books replaced by Open Education Resources. Still, this $2 million hardly compares to what students have paid for traditional materials in the meantime.

Following their colleagues’ example, we’re calling on teachers to make the switch to Open Education Resources and we’re prepared to help them along the way. If we can’t correct the crushing weight of student debt that my generation is currently trapped in, we should at least be using the solutions that already exist to make higher-ed even remotely manageable.

Amandeep Singh lives in Sunderland.


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