This Simple Idea Could Cut Costs for College Students Across the US

A modest move toward open-source, electronic textbooks could save $1 billion for U.S. students annually, according to a new report.

This Simple Idea Could Cut Costs for College Students Across the US Photo (cc) by CollegeDegrees360

College is expensive. Whether it’s paying tuition, or ponying up the cash for textbooks and supplies, college outlays add up quickly. As tuition costs continue to rise, there is one area where expenditures could be trimmed: textbooks.

Low-cost or free open-source electronic textbooks could save college students up to $128 per course, each semester, according to a new report by the Student Public Interest Research Group.

Open-source books are faculty-written, peer-reviewed books made available online for very little or free. Students would also have the option to print the book for a minimal cost.

On average, course textbooks and supplies cost students a whopping $1,200 to $1,300 per academic year, the report said. Students at community colleges are hit especially hard, with textbooks costing up to 40 percent of the average cost of tuition. At four-year colleges, book fees equal about 13 percent of tuition costs.

“As long as publishers continue driving new book prices higher, used books, rentals and e-textbooks aren’t enough to solve the problem,” the report said.

The report analyzed data from five colleges that conducted pilot programs with open textbooks. The resulting student savings were impressive.

“If every student had just one of their traditional textbooks replaced with OER or an open textbook, it would save students in this country more than $1 billion annually,” the report noted.

But using open-source textbooks could provide more than just student savings, The New York Times reports.

Previous research by the Student PIRGs found that the high cost of textbooks can interfere with education. Some students, for instance, may delay buying the required text for a class and fall behind; or they simply don’t buy it at all, putting themselves at a disadvantage.

Of course, open-source textbooks aren’t available for all courses. Students need to talk to their instructors to see if open-source is an option. The report noted that more than 2,500 faculty members from 750 colleges have committed to considering using open textbooks if it works for their class.

What do you think of using open-source textbooks as a way to trim college costs? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Watch this video to learn about other ways to get a college education without racking up a mountain of debt:

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