Friday, May 24

USAC, CALPIRG join forces to promote affordable textbooks

(Zoe Hessler/Daily Bruin)

(Zoe Hessler/Daily Bruin)

An undergraduate student government office and the California Public Interest Research Group, or CALPIRG, hopes to reduce the amount of money students spend on textbooks by encouraging professors to switch to cheaper alternatives.

Devika Chaudhuri, CALPIRG textbook program coordinator and first-year applied mathematics student, said CALPIRG and the USAC Financial Supports commissioner created a textbook lobby force in March that aims to persuade professors to switch from traditional textbooks to cheaper open-source textbooks.

“The average student spends over $2,400 on textbooks over the course of their four-year degree, and the problem seems to be only getting worse with textbook prices rising at four times the inflation rate,” Chaudhuri said.

UCLA Undergraduate Admission estimates each student pays $1,635 annually for course materials.

Open-source textbooks, often authored by professors and researchers, are peer reviewed but are not published by traditional corporate publishers, Chaudhuri said. She added she thinks open-source textbooks can also be easily customized to cater to a course’s curriculum.

Hannah Chung, a third-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student, said she thinks it’s important to reduce the cost of textbooks, but she is concerned the quality of open-source materials will not be as high as that of traditional textbooks.

Chaudhuri said CALPIRG has scheduled meetings with professors and departments to speak with faculty members about using more open-source materials. She added she thinks the content in many open-source textbooks are similar to existing textbooks that professors ask students to purchase.

Ruhi Patil, USAC Financial Supports commissioner, said she thinks more professors should be aware of the Affordable Course Materials Initiative, a UCLA Library initiative that provides financial incentives of $1,000 or $2,500 to professors who switch over to more affordable textbooks and course materials.

CALPIRG and the USAC Financial Supports Commission will be organizing a panel in mid-May to teach professors about the benefits of open-source textbooks and how they can switch over to them, Chaudhuri said.

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