A successful student campaign in the University of Maryland served as a catalyst for changing the way college textbooks are sold on campus by making them free. Students wrote on a whiteboard explaining the costs of their textbooks some claiming they paid over one hundred dollars for one book while another student paid near a thousand dollars for a semester of books. Stories like this are common across the country where college prices are rising exponentially.
The University of Maryland has taken the student’s complaints into consideration and have begun a pilot program to transition all needed course material to an open source electronic textbooks. Open source textbooks are not protected by copyright and therefore available to all who have an internet connection. A similar program has been done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California State University, and the Washington State College, but went beyond just textbooks and created the “open courseware” program to allow anyone who wants to get an education in a variety of topics.
A projected $160,000 will be saved by a total of 1100 students. The push for online learning has become a major trend in the United States higher education institutions due to an increase in technological availability, an increased need for a college degree, as well as increasing tuition prices. The service of open source textbooks have not however created a major change overall. The push for higher technology learning has brought forward plans around giving schools and students tablets and laptops in school districts across the nation.
Problems still arise with the program. Professors expected to write the new textbooks need to be connected to the proper materials and there needs to be some sort of quality control for the new textbooks. Students are quick to defend a free textbook program as the cost of these hard cover books tend to outweigh their use. The price of college textbooks has increased more than 80 percent in the decade following 2002, a whopping three times faster than inflation. The blame is heavily on textbook companies that are uncontested to lower prices. The high price of textbooks have a significant effect on the grade of those who can not afford the books and buy them later than other students. This writer did the same as many students and avoided buying a textbook unless it was absolutely necessary for the class.
Colleges have increased tuition faster than anyone can keep up. The problem tends to land in the banks having no risk in giving out a student loan because the money is basically guaranteed. Student debt has become a bane of the higher education especially in lower income families who need to save up for lifetimes to even have a chance to send their child to college. Should that child get into college after the cost of simply applying and graduates after buying books, paying for classes and tuition leaves the student in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that has interest. The free textbook program at the University of Maryland should be a great help to struggling families and even student who just want to have some extra money in their pocket.
Commentary By Andy Diaz