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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Textbook Cost-Cutting Tests Tempers

Many colleges and universities are looking for ways to shrink the out-of-pocket expense of course materials in response to pressure from students, parents, policymakers, and legislators. However, as campus administrators investigate possible solutions, they’re sometimes coming under fire from faculty.

For example, at Alamo Colleges in Texas, faculty were not at all happy with the chancellor’s recent proposal to cut textbook costs by requiring each course section to use the same materials, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Alamo comprises five community colleges, with a number of the same courses taught by different faculty at different campuses.

Faculty viewed the proposal as infringing on their academic right to assign whatever course materials they deem most suitable for the class. The chancellor saw it as the means to negotiate bulk purchases of textbooks or license digital materials to secure a lower per-unit cost.

For at least some courses, only a digital version of the textbook would be available to students, which also raised a red flag for faculty. They expressed concerns about students without Internet access at home.

The University of Utah is trying to avoid that kind of conflict. The UU Academic Senate appointed a committee to come up with ways to snip as much as $500 annually from each student’s textbook tab, according to The Daily Utah Chronicle. The committee has representatives from faculty, staff (including the bookstore), and students, who will work together to develop recommendations.

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