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Colleges should offer e-Textbooks to Save Students money (Essay Sample)


This is a persuasive research paper supporting the argument that colleges should purchase textbooks for students like it is done in high schools.

Colleges should offer e-Textbooks to Save Students money
In the start of every college semester, professors and instructors offer a list of course materials required for each class. Course materials are basically a collection of readings, which include textbooks. One, two, or more textbooks may be required for each college class. Textbooks are expensive, in fact, very expensive, and students spend lots of money annually in buying or renting textbooks. Currently, students acquire the required textbooks from by buying new copies, by accessing the books from college libraries, by renting from rental websites, or by buying used books. It is not uncommon for some students to go without textbooks (Young 4). On average, a college student spends between $700 and $1000 on textbooks in each college year. This high spending has fueled a debate on what can be done to ease the burden of textbooks on students. Colleges should reduce the cost of textbooks by switching from textbooks to e-textbooks, and then purchasing the e-textbooks for students from the book publishers.
Regardless of where students get textbooks, they spend a lot of money to get them. A new textbook can cost about $200 and above, meaning that if two textbooks were required in each class, a college student would spend about $400 in each class. If a student has several classes in a semester, the amount spend on new textbooks can be overwhelming. There is a substantial disagreement in the studies that have been conducted to describe the affordability of college textbooks. Sheehy, in a 2013 article published by US News, reports that students from Arizona State University spend an average of $1000 on textbooks annually, that students from Ohio State University spend around $1,250 on textbooks, and that students from the University of Southern California spend as much as $1,500 on textbooks annually (2). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a study on the costs of college textbooks in the 2003-04 academic years and found that students in four-year colleges spend averagely $898 on textbooks, while students in two year colleges spend an average of $886 on textbooks annually (Government Accountability Office 5). GAO also explained that from 1986 to 2004, the price of textbooks increased by 186% (6). This implies that textbooks are getting expensive by the day. Another study on college textbook affordability was conducted by the College Board in the 2004, and concluded that students in four year and two year public colleges spend $817 and $745 on textbooks respectively (The College Board 4). These statistics differ significantly, but create the impression that college students' annual expenditure on textbooks in a year is above $700. These statistics also portray that most of the students do not purchase all the required textbooks, because if majority of college students purchased new copies of textbooks, the average spending would be much higher.
Students use different mechanisms to reduce the amount they spend on textbooks, and this may adversely affect their grades. As Young explains in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education;
Every professor expects students to have ready access to required texts, but technically, purchasing them is optional. So over the years students have improvised a range of ways to dodge buying a new copy- picking up a used textbook, borrowing a copy from the library, sharing with a roommate, renting one, downloading an illegal version, or simply going without (4).
This explanation points out the disadvantages of students lacking access to textbooks required in classes. It is natural for human beings to try to make things easier. Because students are required to pass exams and do assignments from their course reading textbooks, they have to try through all means to have them. This has led students to devising different means of attaining textbooks. Some of this ways, such as using the library, sharing books, renting used books, and buying used books are good ways of getting required textbooks. However, students may still find it expensive to rent books or buy used ones. Such students may henceforth find illegal versions of the textbooks online and henceforth break copyright laws, hence risking hefty piracy fines. Some students may also opt to go without textbooks. Just as Brown and Fallon explain "the high cost of textbooks can be prohibitive to certain students, especially if multiple texts are required for the course" (Fallon and Brown 29). The lack of access to textbooks can have serious negative implications on students' academic performance, hence it is necessary for colleges to intervene and ensure that students have access to books.
The best way for colleges to make textbooks affordable and accessible to students is by purchasing them and offering them through loans for the duration of time the book is required, or purchasing them fully for students. In 2007, Congress responded to the findings of the Government Accountability Study that found that textbooks were very expensive for students by forming the College Textbook Affordability Act of 2007. The purpose of this act is to ensure that students in higher education institutions are given timely access to affordable course materials by the faculty, administrators, the education institutions, publishers and bookstores. The Act requires all parties in higher education to work in liaison and decrease the cost of college textbooks. The Act requires a free flow of textbook information between instructors, publishers and bookstores to ensure that textbooks required by students are available and affordable (Governmet Printing Office 6895-96). Has this Act effectively reduced the cost of college textbooks? Not really. The Act has increased the flow of information such that students, publishers and bookstores know which textbooks are required before each semester starts. Students have timely access to textbooks, but the textbooks are still expensive. To solve this problem, the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (2007) recommends that "in the long run, the supply-driven, producer-centric market of today must be transformed into the demand-driven, college- and student- centric market of tomorrow" (9). This can be done through the development and implementation of a textbook rental program in each higher education institution. Through such a system, colleges would buy all textbooks required in bulk and then loan them to students for the duration of a course.
Textbook rental programs in higher education institutions are feasible, workable, and are very beneficial in higher education. The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) reported that in 2007, about 25 higher education institutions offered textbook rental programs. The IBHE reviewed the textbook market trends, five textbook rental programs in the state of Illinois, rental program start-up costs, economic impacts, and cost estimates of rental programs in 2007 and concluded that mandatory rental fees would be sufficient to cover the operation costs of a college textbook program in higher education institutions. The IBHE further found out that the mandatory textbook rental costs that would be imposed on students annually if public universities implemented textbook rental programs would be only $305 (IBHE 9). This means that textbook rental programs in public colleges and universities would reduce the cost of textbooks to students by about 50% or more. Reducing the cost of college textbooks would make higher education more affordable to students and their families. In addition, textbook rental programs in institutions of higher learning would ensure that no students take classes without textbooks and students do not access authorized versions of textbooks on digital platforms.
Colleges should not only develop and implement textbook rental programs but should offer e-textbooks on those programs. Due to technology advancement, it has been expected that e-textbooks will come to replace print textbooks, but this has been a slow process. It is time colleges made a switch to e-textbooks, a move that would save college students hundreds of dollars each year by reducing the amount spend on textbooks. If colleges purchased textbooks and loaned them to students through a mandatory annual textbook rental fee, then they would save students a lot of money; if the colleges offered e-textbooks instead of textbooks on rental programs, they would save college students more money. This is because e-textbooks would be way much cheaper for colleges to purchase. The Office of Operations Review and Audit in the Wisconsin University explains that the high cost of textbooks is due to the fact that new textbooks are usually sold as a bundle containing the textbook in hard copy, a digital version of the book in a CD-ROM, and tutorial materials (3). In light of this, the Wisconsin University audit office recommends that textbooks should be sold without being bundled with tutorial materials and CD-ROMs so that they are cheaper. But should textbooks always be in print? What if textbook publishers produced textbooks only in digital versions without offering books in print? The National Association of College Stores explains that in every dollar spent on a new textbook, approximately 60 cents cover publishing costs. The chart below was used by the National Association of College Stores to explain how revenue from textbook sales is distributed.
The illustration above shows that majority of funds spent on new textbooks covers publishing costs. The cost of e-textbooks would be lower than the price of a textbook in print because the publishing costs much lower when producing digital versions of a book, and because other costs such as shipping costs and book storage costs would be reduced. Publishing an e-textbook is much cheaper than publishing a textbook in print ...
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