Pesky Book Prices are an Anchor on Student Bank Accounts
By Clifford Michel
The majority of college students in New York have considered not buying a textbook due to high costs, a study released on November 12 by the New York Public Interest Research Group concluded.
NYPIRG’s study found that as many as 74 percent of students have considered not buying required reading material for classes. The survey, has a +/- 6 percent margin of error, which was conducted during the Fall 2013 semester at 17 New York colleges and universities, including the College of Staten Island.
The price of college textbooks has risen by 80 percent over the past decade, NYPIRG’s report summarizing the study stated.
“I am quite disturbed by the ratio of students that will not buy a textbook. Textbooks are fundamental apparatuses of learning, and without them, it will be strenuous for students to get by in their courses,” said Blerim Cukovic, CSI Student Government’s Commissioner of Academic and Curricular Affairs.
Students often try to cut textbooks costs by purchasing older editions of a textbook, but many professors rebuff this and make it mandatory to have the latest edition.
Even with possible repercussions from professors, some students still take the risks.
“Sometimes I find it unnecessary to buy every textbook,” said Pablo Llerena, a biology major at CSI, “because there’s a good chance that the library has copies. I feel that a lot of professors don’t even use the textbooks sometimes.”
Llerna mentioned that some students take the risk of not buying a textbook based on expectations found on word of mouth, the website Rate My Professor, or previous experiences.
“Basically, for biology it’s mandatory. But in my humanity courses they don’t really use it,” Llerena said.
In response, CSI’s Academic Commission is currently working with all departments to uniformly accept older textbook additions.
“It makes it manageable for academic students of all backgrounds to progress in their fields of choice, without having the hassle of attempting to rent a book at a library and to find out that there are none available or to save up a month’s worth of paychecks to purchase a textbook for one class,” Cukovic later said.
NYPIRG’s report urged city and state legislators to take action on the issue and pushed for Open textbooks to be used more often.
Open textbooks are faculty written and peer-reviewed much like traditional textbooks are, but they are published under an open license. An open license allows the textbook to be available online for free, free to download, and noticeably cheaper in print. Open textbooks are already in use in some courses at CSI. COM 115-Introduction to Design uses an online open textbook called “Digital Foundations: Intro to Media Design with the Adobe Creative Suite.”
The textbook is available free online and students generally prefer it for this very reason.
“Students are struggling with increasing college costs—tuition, fees and textbooks—that results too often in college debt. One way to help offset those huge costs is easing the burden of high textbook prices,” said Tom Cintula, an intern at NYPIRG at CSI. “Students need a better, low-cost alternative outside of the traditional market. That alternative is open textbooks.”
NYPIRG is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that prioritizes public interest in New York State. The group specializes in advancing public interest issues through grassroots organizing, advocacy, and public education. Started in 1973 at Queens College, NYPIRG has expanded to 20 chapters and aided in passing more than 150 laws and executive orders. This included the 1982 Bottle Return Law, which established a 5-cent deposit on bottles and cans.
NYPIRG’s CSI chapter is located in the Campus Center in Room 218 and can be reached at (718) 982-3109.