ASUC Senate creates new scholarship to help fund textbook purchases

Joe Wright/File
Joe Wright/File

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With college textbook prices now rising faster than tuition, the ASUC is hoping to help ease the pain with its creation of a scholarship that would help students pay for textbooks.

Sponsored by CalSERVE Senator Daley Vertiz and approved by the senate March 7, the ASUC Textbook Scholarship Program will provide awardees with $100 to $250 to pay for textbooks from the Cal Student Store.

“We started (the scholarship) first and foremost to address the issue of textbook affordability and to finance that high cost of higher education,” Vertiz said. “Textbook rates have increased lately, and as a fellow student, I don’t think it’s fair.”

According to the bill, SB 51, college textbook prices have increased by 812 percent since the late 1970s. The bill also noted that the average cost of textbooks for a UC Berkeley student is currently $1,214 and that 70 percent of undergraduates in the U.S. said that they could not purchase one or more textbooks due to costs.

“Students should have the right resources at this amazing university and should be able to buy the textbooks they need,” said Monica Ruiz, who helped co-author the bill.

Vertiz said that the creation of the scholarship was inspired by the Education Opportunity Program, which serves low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students. The EOP runs a similar textbook scholarship that was founded by Valerie Jameson, another co-author of the bill.

“My program with EOP was a pilot program, and when I met Daley and worked on it more concretely, we started to envision a scholarship like this for the entire student community,” Jameson said.

The ASUC has allocated $2,000 from its yearly budget to help fund the scholarship. However, Ruiz said she hopes that other student groups will contribute as well. The senate also hopes to find private funding to sustain the scholarship and make it available to more students.

“We are planning to fundraise across various campus departments whose mission align closely with that of the scholarship to make this campus more equitable and affordable for all students,” Vertiz said. “Next year, we also plan to explore the idea of launching a donation drive that will allow ASUC alumni to donate to the scholarship fund.”

Many UC Berkeley students agreed that there was a need for such a scholarship.

“I’ve been very annoyed with buying my textbooks, and it’s been very stressful because at the start of the semester none of your classes are set in stone, and it’s a huge financial commitment,” said UC Berkeley freshman Mohammed Jomaa. “This scholarship would be hugely beneficial for me, personally, so I wouldn’t have to make that financial commitment.”

Under the program, 40 percent of the scholarships will be allocated to students with an expected family contribution of between $0 and $5,291; 30 percent will be given to those with a family contribution of between $5,291 and $29,000 and 15 percent for those with a family contribution above $29,000. The final 15 percent would be allocated to students with AB 540 status, which describes certain nonresident students who have attended high school in California and received a high school diploma in the state.

The application for the ASUC Textbook Scholarship is available to all enrolled students and will be released on the ASUC website in April.

Contact Seif Abdelghaffar at [email protected].