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Tackling course material costs, campus discusses student access

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UC Berkeley students' books, course materials, supplies and equipment often exceed expectations, but campus programs help reduce costs.


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AUGUST 07, 2023

The average cost for a UC Berkeley student’s books, course materials, supplies and equipment per academic year is estimated to be $1,274, according to campus’s Financial Aid & Scholarships website. On top of tuition and other fees, costs for students often exceed expectations.

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore cited a campus website that provides information about affordable textbooks and course materials, which some faculty use to decide their course materials or provide alternative options. Other professors deliberately choose course textbooks that are open to the public, free of charge.

Gilmore also said UC Berkeley libraries have a contract with Springer Nature to provide students with free digital textbooks or affordable printed options, and several faculty utilize this as well. Gilmore added that campus has joined the Open Textbook Network in an effort to encourage students’ access to openly licensed and free textbooks and course materials.

Campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff emphasized campus’s various programs and resources to help students cover the full cost of attendance. For some students, this includes books, on top of tuition, fees, housing, food and transportation.

Further, senior adviser for national organizing in the ASUC’s office of external affairs vice president Issabella Romo worked with a team on equity in textbook and class software access on campus. She mentioned that, while there are classes in which professors provide all required readings or there are no readings, the classes that require textbooks can pose challenges due to high prices for students. Classes that also require students to purchase additional software add even more costs.

“This is a problem because we realize a lot of students, if they have to purchase stuff for class, that’s a thing they don’t necessarily anticipate, especially if they don’t have access to the syllabus,” Romo said.

Romo said that after UC Davis instituted a few textbook programs, the ASUC has been motivated to follow suit.

According to Romo, the office is currently considering a program called “Inclusive Access,” in which campus would partner with publishers of course materials. Romo said the goal is that, as a result of this program, textbooks will be offered to students at a lower price than before or than buying the textbooks directly from the publisher.

“Essentially, what this program aims to do is it’ll charge a more standard fee for textbooks that may be required in order to ensure that students are able to get their books at a reasonable cost,” Romo said.

Students could voluntarily opt into this program, paying a per-class fee for the program to receive all required textbooks for a particular class. The textbook offerings, however, would be primarily online.

Additionally, Romo said there may be unequal access to this program due to technological requirements. However, she said campus has laptop loan programs which may help students bridge this gap.

“I’d be interested in seeing some sort of collaboration between the student store that manages this program, if it goes through, and the university programs that offer students laptop loans, to see that there is an increase in available laptops for students to correlate with the increase in need in requirements for online textbooks,” Romo said.

Contact Sania Choudhary at 


AUGUST 07, 2023