OER: Possible solution to financial burden of textbooks

By Leighah Beausoleil

Editorial Staff

Dahir Hersi, junior financial accounting major, spent $600 on textbooks for the spring 2020 semester.

While freshmen Anny Ham, a management major, and Lidia Flores, an English major, spent $390 and $400, respectively.

Each of the eight students interviewed spent an average of $300 on textbooks. This is on top of $21,600 students spent including $11,100 for tuition and fees and $10,500 for room and board.  

To break away from this trend of high textbook costs, SGA is involved in the promotion of Open Educational Resources (OER).

SGA Senator McKenzie Ward, the OER ambassador, said, “OER are educational resources that can be accessed through a public domain or introduced with an open license. This means that these resources can be accessed by professors and students for free and legally.

“My goal for this year is to educate both students and professors on the financial burden textbooks place on students,” she said.

Ward held an informational table in the McCarthy Center lobby Feb. 10 where she also received about 100 signatures toward her “statement of support.”

She hoped to obtain 200 signatures from both students and professors by Feb. 27 when she attended her Student Advisory Committee meeting.

“As a student, I have faced the financial burden of not being able to afford a textbook that was required for a class,” she said. 

Ward said this semester, she struggled to find a cheaper copy of her nutrition textbook.

“I spent winter break looking at every website I could find to see if anywhere had it any cheaper than FSU’s bookstore,” she said. “I tried renting it through the bookstore, but that was not an option.”

Ward said it was “unfair” not to have the option to rent, given multiple emails advertising the benefits of renting from the FSU bookstore. 

“For the spring semester, only two books out of the ones I needed had a rental option,” Ward added. “I kept having to use my credit card to be able to afford the necessary materials. Every time I swiped my card, I feared that I would not be able to afford to pay my credit card bill.”

In the Feb. 11 SGA meeting, Olivia Beverlie, student trustee, said, “69% of our booklist for this semester is rentable and 70% was rentable in the fall.”

Beverlie explained rental options have a lot to do with when professors get their booklist to the bookstore. When professors submit their lists too late, the bookstore is limited to finding new versions of the textbooks.

In an interview, Beverlie said OER can “help students who struggle to pay for textbooks because OER requires free resources. Currently, our University requires professors to keep a copy of their textbook on reserve in the library, but the goal is for professors to find resources that are completely free.

“A lot of people are involved with OER on our campus including Student Government Association, CASA, and Millie Gonzalez, who has led this fight as a staff member,” she added.

In interviews, students expressed their concerns about the cost of textbooks.

Destiny St. Amand, a junior psychology major, said the bookstore had not ordered her book for her Abnormal Psychology class and therefore, she had to buy it new for $240.

St. Amand explained not everyone gets a book voucher and when they do, they have no choice but to buy from the bookstore, which may not even have the textbook needed.

“You wait in line just to wait in line again,” she said.

Elisabeta Cojocaru, a sophomore accounting major, said, “I have never used the bookstore because I have heard horror stories of other people buying books [from there].”

Cojocaru said there have been multiple instances where the books for her classes were required, yet they never used them.

“I have friends who have professors who wrote the book, and they still have to buy them,” she added. “We are already paying you quite a bit to teach us.”

Ward said as OER ambassador, she is promoting a campaign on social media called #TextbookBroke.

“This campaign sheds light on the high cost of university textbooks and how OER can be used to save students thousands of dollars,” she added. 

The campaign asked students to share how much they spent on textbooks and what they would rather have spent the money on, Ward said. 

“Many students that I saw using this hashtag expressed they would have rather spent the money on groceries,” she said. “I found this heartbreaking.

“One of SGA’s goals this year is to address housing and food insecurity, and as I researched more into OER, the more I realized that this connects back to how students can barely afford food.

“According to Cengage, 43% of college students that they surveyed stated they skipped meals in order to pay for textbooks,” she added. “No student should go hungry because their course asked for a $150 textbook.”

[Editor’s note: McKenzie Ward is a member of The Gatepost.]

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