University System of Georgia suggesting to lower textbook costs

Shane Peaster

The University System of Georgia (USG) has an ongoing request for Georgia Southern to move to an “Open Textbook” format – a move that would lower, or even eliminate, high textbook costs.

According to the Sept. 6 faculty senate meeting minutes, Provost Jean Bartels reported that “open textbooks and online resources … would help defray book costs for students.” The USG suggests that teachers utilize an online open textbook website as an alternative to assigning students to purchase expensive textbooks.

The website, called Affordable Learning Georgia, is a part of GALILEO, Georgia’s extensive virtual library. To date, the site estimates that it has saved students $16.5 million in textbook costs for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

Bartels noted in the Sept. meeting that the critical issue is the cost of textbooks. Because the costs are often high, many students do not buy the assigned textbooks because they can’t afford them, and as a result, sometimes lead to students leaving school.

Another issue is how quickly information in textbooks becomes outdated, an issue that Provost Bartels, who has a background in nursing, said can be dangerous and render the books useless.

But the request to move to Open Textbooks isn’t without opposition. Faculty Senate member Dr. Robert Pirro questioned the request, wondering if it would also come with some disadvantages. Pirro suggested a couple of downsides to the move, noting that students would leave college without a personal library of textbooks and that they wouldn’t “have the joys of holding and smelling” a book, according to the meeting minutes.

Bartels agreed that she enjoys the hold and smell a book, but she said students may not feel the same way anymore.

“I suspect if I had surveyed most of our population of students that it is never an experience they have at this point had, nor ever wanted in their life because they are on their device, and I think we’re unfortunately . . . seeing a shift, you know, in . . . how students take in information,” Bartels said in the meeting.