10.30.18 Overpriced Textbooks

The LSU Barnes and Nobles sits on 2 Union Square, Baton Rouge on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.

“Textbook Tyranny,” a 12-page document created by mass communication seniors Logan Cooney, Emma Espenan, Courtney Reeder and Jordan Riggs, hopes to inform students and administrators of unnecessary, high textbook prices and the strides the University could take to decrease these costs.

Cooney and his team came together in their capstone class with mass communication professor Robert Mann to compile this data for an assignment. They got the idea after noticing many students were holding two jobs in order to afford their textbooks.

"LSU has fallen behind the curve on alleviating textbook costs,” said Cooney. “We found a number of institutions have implemented successful textbook policies that help students afford textbooks."

The group gathered enrollment numbers from the General Catalog and gauged new and used textbooks prices from the LSU Barnes & Noble Bookstore’s website. They created a table of more than 40 courses that “serves as a glimpse into textbook prices.”

"We've compiled a bunch of different problems we've seen with textbooks,” Cooney said. “We show what LSU has done for different textbook resources, and we compare what other schools have done successfully."

According to their research, if a freshman were to take five classes with the cheapest textbooks, it would still total just short of $500. Now that this information is public, the team is working hard to inform students, hoping to hear their concerns. They also plan to receive feedback from senior colleges, counselors and deans.

While cheaper textbook prices are a unanimous victory for students, these new textbooks will be a harder sell for storied teachers.

“We think the biggest issue is going to be teachers who have used certain textbooks for twenty years, and they just update to new editions,” Cooney said. "It's why it’s a matter of pushing these questions to administration and faculty as well. [Our goal] is to get awareness out.”

Cooney understands the concerns teachers would have, but believes it is worthwhile for the students in the long run.

"Making the change will affect teachers and their curriculum,” Cooney said. “But it comes down to pricing, and that affects the students.”

Cooney and his team have found multiple alternatives for buying textbooks. OpenStax is a non-profit initiative from Rice University that offers free, high-quality textbooks to students. It has already been implemented by Ohio State University, Auburn University, University of Georgia and others.

Another option, Cengage, is a subscription service that grants more than 22,000 textbooks. A semester’s worth of textbooks will only cost a student $119.99, a price lower than some single textbooks the University uses now.

Southeastern Louisiana University has taken a completely different route, offering a rental fee of $50 for textbooks for every class.

"These textbooks are of the same quality, but cheaper,” Cooney said.

In order to help further the conversation, they have created a website and are hoping to have an open forum for students, faculty and administration to discuss the University’s issues with textbook prices.

"Having all parties sitting at the table and working out the differences and issues in each group will help [keep the conversation going]," Cooney said. "As a flagship institution, [the University] should be able to listen to the issues and present their cases."

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