Wednesday, January 23

CALPIRG, UCLA Library to push jointly for use of free, low-cost course material

Almost one-third of students nationwide use financial aid reimbursements to pay for textbooks, according to a report several state student activist groups released Wednesday.

California Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of students, and other similar state organizations found the average student spends more than $300 on books per term, according to the report. Researchers surveyed about 4,700 students from 130 universities in 25 states, including UCLA.

Cailyn Nagel, a CALPIRG campus organizer, said the organizations conducted the survey to support students’ claims and help them advocate for lower textbook prices. She added no organization has ever researched the degree to which textbook prices have impacted students’ financial situations.

College textbook prices have increased by 73 percent over the last ten years, prompting about 30 percent of students from four-year public universities and 50 percent of students from two-year programs and community colleges to use financial aid reimbursements to purchase textbooks, according to the report.

Jabril Muhammad, a staff member for an undergraduate student government general representative office, said he thinks UCLA students sometimes unnecessarily pay for material in their course readers. In 2008, the UCLA Library’s Affordable Course Materials Initiative discovered the library system already owned some of the material in course readers, he added.

“It’s ironic that UCLA prides itself on affordability when the books are not affordable,” said Muhammad, a second-year sociology and mathematics student.

Kristof Almasy, a textbook campaign coordinator for CALPIRG, said he thinks textbook prices pose a serious threat to college affordability. He added CALPIRG is working to lower textbook costs for students.

CALPIRG will partner with the UCLA Library to encourage professors to use low-cost or free course materials, including library-licensed resources or online texts, said Almasy, a third-year urban planning student. CALPIRG student interns will also meet with professors one-on-one to encourage them to use open-source textbooks.

During the Affordable Course Materials Initiative, professors for 18 classes switched to using open-source textbooks, Nagel said. About 1,600 students enrolled in those classes saved a total of $160,000.

Gareth Wang, a member of an Undergraduate Students Association Council general representative office and second-year geography and international developmental studies student, said USAC will host an affordability awareness forum later this year to encourage students to use library materials.

Nagel said CALPIRG representatives plan to continue raising awareness by creating a video that encourages instructors to use low-cost course materials. She added she thinks the increase in textbook prices combined with rising tuition costs may detract from students’ college experiences.

“It’s not fair that someone has to choose between food on their plate or doing their best in a class,” Nagel said.

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Janae Yip is currently a news contributor covering Westwood, transportation and Los Angeles.

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