A.S. Senate Passes Resolution to Make Textbooks More Affordable

This past week, A.S. Senate approved a campus-wide resolution to make textbooks more affordable for students. This comes after CalPIRG, the national student-run organization spearheading the campaign behind the resolution, presented findings on the increasing education costs students are faced with that may adversely affect their ability to obtain college degrees. The policy focus of the campaign is to institute grant-funded, open educational resource programs on college campuses and to ban single-use access codes.

With potential funding from the library, ongoing petitions, and the possibility of A.S. Council and CalPIRG representatives placing the campaign on the A.S. Senate meeting agenda in the foreseeable future, students remain committed to the battle against the financial challenges that accompany pursuing a higher education.    

Resolutions passed by student government serve primarily as documentation that may later be referenced when lobbying campus officials. This resolution was no different. A.S. Council and CalPIRG activists mutually voiced the procedural affirmation as a path toward increasing student access to less costly alternatives when obtaining course materials.

The 2016 “Covering the Cost” report conducted by CalPIRG, which analyzed data taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics since 2006, indicate that the price of textbooks and supplies has risen four times that of inflation, spurring an increase by 88 percent. In contrast, college tuition and fees went up by 63 percent during the same period.

As a result, ongoing surveys starting from the 2014 report “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market” establish that more than $3 billion in financial aid each year is diverted toward paying for textbooks.

At least 65 percent of students admitted to opting out of purchasing course materials required for full engagement and overall success in their courses.

Instituting grant-funded, open educational resource programs and banning single-use access codes are the main goals of a two-part plan CalPIRG is working on to combat soaring prices of required didactic material.

“So OERs are open educational resources on campuses, and free peer-reviewed textbooks,” Sophie Haddad, Sixth College student and vice chair of CalPIRG told the UCSD Guardian. “So a professor, instead of assigning an expensive textbook for a course, can compile online course material that’s free for students, which will take the financial burden off students.”

OER programs have already been implemented on the three campuses of Rutgers University in New Jersey, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. According to CalPIRG’s 2018 study “Open 101: An Action Plan for Affordable Textbooks,” “Switching the ten introductory classes in our study to OER nationwide would save students $1.5 billion per year in course materials costs.”

OER programs require a significant amount of funding, from which university libraries are often considered.

“Last week, we did a presentation with the library and the bookstore which went really well,” Haddad stated. “We’re sitting down with the library now to draft a grant proposal. The resolution will help support us along the way.”

This is not to say that Geisel Library already has the funding to create such a program, just that universities with such projects often allocate additional funding to their libraries to help start them.

Banning access codes would also account for a substantial share of course materials, and CalPIRG has already garnered 34 UC San Diego faculty signatures. The next step is to present it at the senate faculty meeting.  

“It’s complicated what role the faculty senate would play,” Haddad stated. “Obviously, it would be amazing to have access to the faculty senate, because it would have the ability to send out all the information to UC faculty, and tell them that this grant program exists, or that they should ban access codes.”

Haddad, along with CalPIRG and A.S. Senate members, remain committed to enacting policy measures that may yield tangible, comprehensive results.