In January, the Wisconsin State Journal reported on a new e-textbook pilot program involving the University of Wisconsin, University of California at Berkeley, University of Virginia, Cornell University and University of Minnesota. Electronic textbooks may not be the one-size-fits-all solution that many universities are looking for. But it certainly plays a part in reducing costs across campus. For example: at UW-Madison, students will spend an average of about $1,140 on books and supplies this year, up from $680 in 2001-2002.
Reducing costs for students is an important issue. Amid skyrocketing college tuition and historic levels of student debt, President Obama is asking colleges and universities to make higher education more affordable and efficient and relieve graduates struggling to repay their college loans. During his State of the Union address in January, Obama called for a comprehensive approach to tackling rising college costs as part of a larger blue print for bolstering the economy. "It's not enough for us to increase student aid," he said. "States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets."
As quoted in the Fiscal Times: "We are putting colleges on notice ... You can't assume that you will just jack up tuition every single year. If you can't stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down. We should push colleges to do better. We should hold them accountable if they don't."
At Morris, we recently held several "listening sessions" where we received direct feedback from students, faculty, and staff about their needs from campus technology. At these sessions, students clearly wanted to have more textbooks available to them as e-textbooks. But while e-textbooks are one way to lower costs, they are not a universal solution. A Daytona State College study this year suggested that some students who purchased e-textbooks only saved $1 compared to those who bought printed material. So we need to choose carefully, and invest wisely, with input from our campuses.