UC should implement open-source textbook program

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The recently announced #CaliforniansForAll College Program is welcome news for the many students who have been burdened by college expenses that have rapidly ballooned over the past few decades. This program significantly advances our state in making college education affordable and equitable. To further address the issue of college affordability, we call upon the UC Board of Regents to support the implementation of a systemwide open textbook program.

College students everywhere have experienced unprecedented financial burdens as a result of the pandemic. Tuition prices have dramatically increased, and students are expected to pay for so much more, such as housing and class materials, to be successful. Thousands of students are required to use supplemental materials such as access codes in order to pass their classes, leaving them with less money to put toward taking care of their basic needs.

Unfortunately, many students don’t have the luxury of scholarships or other stipends to alleviate such costs. One survey found that 63% of students have skipped buying or renting a textbook during their time in college, hindering their academic success.

Low-income students are at an academic disadvantage when they’re unable to purchase required course materials, but it does not have to be this way. With five publishing companies controlling 80% of the textbook market, textbook prices have skyrocketed since the 1970s. Furthermore, the cost of textbooks has increased by 88% over the past 10 years.

Many students often opt not to purchase a textbook due to its financial burden or to avoid the situation of buying a textbook only to barely use it throughout the semester. Students’ access to textbooks can have a tremendous impact on their success in their classes, yet many students have to choose between purchasing textbooks and other necessities. Overall, success should not be determined by one’s financial status or access to textbooks.

CalPIRG’s push to implement an open-source textbook program in the UC system is grounded in alleviating a major financial hurdle in higher education by making textbooks free and readily accessible. Such efforts would thus aid California’s advancement toward a more equitable education system.

The university can lead this movement and live up to its standards of accessibility and diversity by implementing an open textbook program. The program could incentivize faculty to use open education resources in the classroom that make textbooks free and accessible to all UC students. We ultimately call on the regents to join us in helping to make academic success a reality for more students instead of a dream crushed by the weight of financial burdens.

Kassandra Aguirre, Kiara Costarelli, Trinity Hall, Aryeal Lands, Radha Patel, Stephanie Singh and Kevin Truong are members of CalPIRG at UCLA. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.