Members of the UC Berkeley chapter of CalPIRG and the ASUC gathered Monday at Sather Gate to speak out against rising textbook costs across the country and advocate for alternative options.
UC Berkeley junior Allie Hughes, secretary of the student chapter of CalPIRG, discussed the results of a national survey analyzing college textbook costs and alternative means of accessing the same material. The survey was administered with the help of several student PIRGs — statewide student-funded and -directed consumer groups — and reached 2,000 students nationwide, including about 500 students from UC Berkeley, Hughes said.
Though the findings of the report were numerous, the main point, Hughes said, is clear: Rising textbook costs need to be promptly addressed. The survey revealed the average student pays $1,200 for textbooks over the span of one school year, a cost Hughes believes is excessive.
“With modern technology, it’s totally unnecessary for textbooks to cost this much,” Hughes said. “The textbook market is broken and students are paying the price.”
One finding of the survey was that high textbook costs deter students from purchasing required reading materials and from taking some classes altogether. Such a predicament undermines educational value, Hughes said.
The survey provided grounds for a shift toward alternatives to textbooks. According to the survey, 82 percent of students felt they would perform better in a course if the textbooks were available online. For this reason, the student chapter of CalPIRG advocates free online editions of required texts.
Also present at the press conference was Nolan Pack, ASUC executive vice president, who emphasized a need for collaborative effort between students, faculty, staff and administration.
“Each of our constituent groups occupies a different space on campus,” Pack said at the press conference. “Students are the consumers of textbooks, faculty are the selectors of textbooks, staff help to deal with doing the inventory … We need all of these groups to come together and be united on the idea that the cost of textbooks has spiralled out of control.”
Pack also spoke of the problems behind the costs of course readers. While the university likely owns the rights to some of the articles included in course readers, disputes over intellectual property regarding these same articles often spikes the costs of these readers, Pack said.
The efforts of those involved in the press conference parallel those previously undertaken by the ASUC Senate, which approved a bill in support of the ASUC Textbook Scholarship Program in March. The program, which receives $2,000 a year with the passage of this bill, allows students to apply for scholarships ranging from $100 to $250 to purchase books at the Cal Student Store.