New legislation for free online college textbooks to lessen financial burden
On November 14th, a new legislative proposal was introduced in Congress that, if implemented, will have the cheap, the broke, and the financially burdened college students singing it praises.
This bill, sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.), is the Affordable College Textbook Act. The overarching goal of this legislation is to expand the use of open textbooks by providing free, online access for both students and the general public. This would allow university faculty, students, and researchers to utilize these materials as an alternative to the traditional, and costly, college textbook as well as provide for more flexible lesson plans in the classroom.
A companion bill was introduced the following week in the House of Representatives by Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA). “I have always strived to make college more accessible and more affordable for students and this legislation will lessen the high cost of an important commodity for learning while helping students save money,” said Hinojosa.
In addition to ensuring the expansion of free online textbooks through an established grant program, the Act also requires universities that receive funds to report on their effectiveness and the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress by 2017 with an update on the price trends of these books. Coming as a surprise to no one, college textbook prices have drastically shot up 82 percent just over the course of this past decade. With the passage of this new bill, however, the utilization of these online educational resources as opposed to traditional ones could reduce textbook costs by 80 to 100 percent.
The purpose of the Affordable College Textbook Act, according to Durbin, is to essentially recreate the positive results of a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to the University of Illinois towards its Open Source Textbook Initiative. “This bill can replicate and build on [the Initiative’s] success and help make the cost of attending college more affordable,” Durbin stated. What started as a sort of online experiment quickly turned into a University triumph as introductory textbook “Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation” became free for readers to download, copy, and distribute.
According to the evil overlord of College Applications, the average estimated annual cost of books and supplies is $1,168. Dear old Georgetown’s average out around $1,200. While it is obvious that Hoyas experience immense pleasure upon seeing their sizeable tuition bill, Vox admits that any small opportunity to slightly lessen that life-long economic struggle known as paying for college education is most certainly appreciated.
Photo: wohnai via Flickr