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SBCC launches Textbook Affordability Program

Austin P. Ambrose, Channels Staff

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Santa Barbara City College is launching a Textbook Affordability Program that is expected to save students more than $180,000 in textbook costs over the next two years.

The rising price of textbooks in recent years has certainly added to the financial burdens of higher education. According to the college’s website, the average City College student will spend $1,710 on textbooks and supplies annually. That’s almost $400 more than the average tuition for in-state students.

Prices aren’t showing any signs of slowing down either. A 2016 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the prices of textbooks are rising at an alarming rate; faster than both student housing and college tuition. Since 2008, they’ve risen 88 percent.

“The ultimate goal [of this program] is to significantly reduce costs of textbooks at the school,” said Bryanna Siguenza, student senate vice president of external affairs. “That would be a huge benefit [for students].”

The program works by encouraging professors to replace expensive textbooks with high-quality free alternatives called open educational resources (OERs). The OERs that City College is looking to adopt come from the non-profit organization OpenStax, that have published 25 textbooks to date.

The Textbook Affordability Program has been in the works for some time, and originally got its start earlier this year when the school applied for a state grant covered under the California Textbook Affordability Act. The grant was approved and the program expects to receive the $40,000 very soon.

Although OERs are free, running the program isn’t. Camerin Poulson, the program coordinator, plans on using the grant to host a number of workshops around campus to get faculty familiar with OERs. Each workshop is expected to cost around $500, and one would take place every few months.

Poulson also hopes that a stipend incentive program will further encourage adoption of OERs at City College. Under the program, professors could receive as much as $500 to read through an OER and write a review for it.

“Forty percent of faculty that go through the process of looking for an OER are going to go ahead and implement them in their courses,” said Poulson. “We’re offering some stipends along the way to encourage [faculty] to report [that they reviewed an OER], and to make sure the bookstore is aware of it and to run it through the accessibility department.”

At least 22 professors are using an OER in one of their classes this semester. Poulson says that she would like to see a student-run ‘thank you’ program to bring attention to those professors so that other students can see the impact of free educational resources.

Cristian Walk, commissioner of academics for the associated student government, said that he spent around $1,000 on textbooks this year alone.

“The Openstax version [of the textbook] would totally work for the class,” said Walk. “It’s still $150 less to get these books. I think it’s worth it.”

When City College submitted a proposal to the California Open Educational Resources Council earlier this year, that outlined a specific plan in order to reduce textbook costs for students.

“We said that we were going to be able to [add] at least 10 sections [that use OERs] and that we would save students about $186,000,” said Poulson. “But I think that we can do much better than that.”

If the program manages to exceed that goal, it could receive an additional $40,000 in two years’ time.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.
SBCC launches Textbook Affordability Program