I have a confession to make: I never buy my textbooks. Put aside the exorbitant cost of textbooks and the occasional futility of purchasing said textbooks in classes, textbooks have always seemed like an unnecessary purchase to me. But I often feel guilty forgoing purchasing any textbooks when I witness my peers dropping between $200 and $500 a semester on them.
Don't get me wrong. I find textbooks extremely important. As a matter of fact, I never pay because I download the textbook online instead of purchasing it. And that's why textbooks need to be free for every student.
It's highly unlikely that you will be successful in attaining a college degree without incorporating some heavy reading into your daily study routine; textbooks are an essential element to being successful in college. Paying for college, in some cases out of pocket, is already a high financial burden on college students. Certain students may not have the financial support from family, access and receiving of scholarships, or even have an employed position, which may bring up difficulties in purchasing textbooks. And that's why schools need to invest in providing free access to textbooks for every student.
And it shouldn’t be a task simply for the school to fulfill. If the federal government invested in educational resources, such as textbooks, academic journals, and research papers, individuals in higher education would be able to have a reduced financial burden. My suggestion is that the U.S. Department of Education oversee this process, since open textbooks would be an advantage for every single college student.
If this sounds like a radical idea, then I have news for you: the idea of free textbooks, or what we can call “open education,” isn’t so novel. In many universities, professors invest in decreasing the cost of textbooks for students by obtaining permission to reproduce certain elements of textbooks, uploading them online, and allowing students to have an avenue on which to access the text. The essential difference in what I am suggesting is that, instead of professors spending their valuable time in obtaining permission, uploading text, and seeking ways to decrease cost for students, this should be the job of the university. The university should obtain permission from publishers and authors to reproduce text for students and provide it to every student, whether the material be academic journals, scientific papers, novels, or essays.
The argument of cost is often brought up in response to this suggestion, but universities usually only have to pay a small fee for access to text. The university could even establish a rental system with certain publishers that will allow access to students for a certain amount of time for a small fee. Another option is the university obtains permission from publishers to access certain texts and establishes a rental system for the students, where students can rent the text from the university directly.
Of course, a large part of this transition would be online, but education is already making a pivotal move in this direction, with many classes having a large online component. This “open education” idea should begin online, and students who wish to purchase the hardcovers of textbooks should be able to purchase so through the university for a reduced cost.
When it comes to college, every single penny is paramount. Costs should never be underestimated for the modern, average college student. Textbooks, a large part of the success of students, should be accessible to every single student, and it is the university’s responsibility as providers of education to provide avenues of success.