Last month, the Student Public Interest Research Groups, a non-profit lobby group, organized a Affordable Textbook Day of Action to oppose high textbook costs. To help “spread the word about textbook affordability solutions,” PIRGs representative Brien Dinella visited Georgetown last Thursday.
Dinella, a student at St. Nobert College who is studying at American University this semester, spent the day visiting Georgetown professors, prepared to educate them about textbook costs and affordable solutions.
“The professors are the demand,” Dinella said, “If they want change, publishers will listen.”
According to data compiled by the PIRGs, the average college student spends about $900 annually on textbooks—a price that has risen at more than four times the rate of inflation. To help remedy costs, lawmakers passed the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which went into effect last July.
While HEOA mainly targets textbook publishing companies, it also requires universities to publish full list of required texts before and during class registration periods. However, the Hoya revealed in September that only 52 percent of fall 2010 courses listed required texts.
Alternatives to textbooks exist, according to Dinella. Open-source textbooks, which are complied online at little to no cost, can be custom edited by professors to fit specific curricula. For students who can’t stand to read from a computer screen, options are available to order cheap, printed versions of open-source textbooks. (Prices typically start at $20.)
While Dinella claimed that professors react positively to PIRGs’ mission, many cannot use the open-source texts currently available.
“Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can use here,” mathematics professor Der-Chen Chang said after looking at a one-page list of PIRGs’ recommended texts.
Nonetheless, Dinella expects more professors to join the cause.
“Last year, there were only three texts on this list, ” he said, “Think about how many we will have next year.”
Photo: Flickr user “wohnai“