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U. aims to save students $500 on textbooks

By Natalie Crofts | Posted - Jan. 7, 2014 at 12:35 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — As textbook prices continue to rise, the University of Utah is exploring online textbooks and other alternatives to save students $500 per year.

Textbook costs have risen 812 percent since 1978, dwarfing the growing prices of medical supplies and new homes, according to the American Enterprise Institute. College Board estimated the average student at a four-year university will spend $1,200 per year on textbooks.

In response to the rising costs, a University of Utah senate committee voted to look into cheaper alternatives.

"The cost of textbooks can sometimes be a barrier for students staying in a class or even in college overall, so hopefully this will help address some of that issue,” said librarian Allyson Mower.

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The committee is made up of college faculty, students and bookstore staff who have the goal of cutting costs by $500. They will consider various options, including partnering with the library to make bulk purchases of some books for students to check out. The most popular alternative is the increased use of open-source textbooks online.

“Professors from around the country will usually write (these textbooks) and then put an open copyright license on them, so anyone who has access to the Internet can get to the textbook," Mower said. "If professors were adopting these textbooks, then it would be free for the student to read.”

The cost of textbooks can sometimes be a barrier for students staying in a class or even in college overall.

–Allyson Mower

She said the use of online textbooks is still a relatively new area. The committee will focus on finding textbooks that are easy for students to get, while still providing good educational opportunities.

“The textbook has to be high quality no matter what, whether in print or online, and it needs to be something that helps educate," she said.

The committee has received a lot of positive feedback so far, especially from students. Professors have also expressed excitement about use of technology in general, because an open textbook can be interactive and offer more than just text.

The committee aims to make their recommendations to the full senate in April.

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