Colleges implement ways to reduce or eliminate textbook costs

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By Erin Eagan


Textbook costs have risen three times faster than the rate of inflation over the past 10 years, forcing many students to alter their course load, withdraw or simply not enroll. According to the 2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey, 67% of postsecondary students did not purchase the required textbook for at least one of their courses. Of those who did, 56% spent an average of $300 per semester, while 18% spent more than $500.

NTC textbooks.jpg

students and medical textbooks

Courtesy of Northcentral Technical College

Wisconsin’s technical colleges offer quality, affordable education. To remain accessible and affordable for students, the colleges are implementing ways to reduce or eliminate textbook costs. Many have joined a growing movement to provide students with Open Education Resources (OER), openly licensed instructional materials that can be used for teaching, professional learning and research. An open license permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution with no or limited restrictions. OER can include textbooks, digital assets, media and virtually any other material used for educational purposes.

“Taking away any type of financial stress from students helps them get on and stay on their path through any college experience,” says Lynn Neitzel, Director of Teaching & Learning Resources at Blackhawk Technical College. “Many people don’t realize, or they forget, that paying tuition is just one of the financial requirements when someone goes to college. OER can help take away a part of this financial barrier for students.”

In addition to OER initiatives, some of the colleges are working to offer other textbook affordability solutions. In the fall of 2019, Madison College will implement a new full-rental textbook program that would significantly lower book costs for students, making it the first two-year institution in Wisconsin with such a program. Rather than pay the price of new and used textbooks, students will pay an estimated supplemental fee of no more than $7 per credit to rent textbooks from the bookstore, saving them hundreds of dollars per semester.

“Blackhawk Technical College offers some textbooks for loan or checkout through our lending library located in our full library collection,” added Neitzel. “We also have divisional resources that are acquired to support certain courses, programs and/or modules of learning scattered throughout the college.”

The path to a better life shouldn’t be financially out of reach. These OER and other initiatives implemented by the colleges will continue to mitigate expenses for students in pursuit of their degree.