To the editor:
Attending college after high school is basically expected of students in our 21st century world. Teenagers can hardly wake up on time, let alone afford absurd amounts of money to attend university. Atop tuition, housing, food services and other necessities, textbooks should be the last expense on a students’ minds for they are essential to a scholar’s success.
Publishing companies, such as Pearson, Cengage and McGraw-Hill, have monopolized the textbook industry. Required books are costly, ranging from an average of $200-$400 per book, resulting in $1,000-$1,200 per semester for full-time students (Open Textbooks Alliance). These prices are absurd considering most students are young and financially unstable, along with non-traditional students we often see here at Berkshire Community College who often work full-time jobs in order to support their families whilst attending classes. These prices are simply unaffordable. Unfortunately, the greater percentage of these book prices go to the publishers, allowing only pennies to drip down to the original authors.
One tactic has been creating online course access codes where entire class loads, including required texts, homework and even exams, are to be read, completed and submitted. This poses a greater problem for students of all kinds because these codes are only available when buying the new edition of the textbook and they also require students to have access to a computer and internet.
There must be a better solution. Fortunately, there is! Open access textbooks! Texts can be published under an open license which allows the user to access the book for free. Professors have the flexibility to adapt their courses to these textbooks and share them with their students without fear of violating copyright contracts. Though these wonderful resources exist, the next challenge is to influence faculty and administration to make the transition to using these open access texts. Grant programs have been utilized to allow a smooth switch for professors in some schools like UMass-Amherst and Salem State. These schools and others have repeated the benefits of these programs with happy and successful students, and have already saved students billions of dollars.
Students everywhere deserve access to free textbooks. These grant programs are essential to support college students in fulfilling their dream of earning a college degree.
The writer is a BCC student and MASSPIRG intern.