CSU looks to make textbooks more affordable

Girl pictured in the bookstore browsing the books
Senior Music Industry student, Alexandra Harris, looks through textbooks at the CSUN bookstore Photo credit: Kianna Hendricks

Spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks each semester has become the norm for many students and College Board estimates they spend an average of $1,250 on textbooks and supplies yearly.

The Affordable Learning Solutions Initiative is a CSU wide initiative to provide students with affordable course materials and combat textbooks prices.

The ALS Initiative has expanded used, digital and rental books at the CSUN bookstore. Other ways the initiative helps students is with bookstore price matching from competitors and expanding the textbook reserve program in the library. Professors are also encouraged to choose course materials early to give students enough time to choose the best option to buy materials.

“We have a lot of students who are first generation… have full time jobs, are raising families and are supporting all sorts of dependents, that narrative is real,” Associate Vice President of Faculty Affairs, Daisy Lemus said. “People are definitely more in tune now than they were even 10 years ago about how expensive textbooks are… we’ve come together to encourage faculty to adopt learning materials that are affordable.”

The ALS committee is in the process of producing a new pilot called Immediate Access.

This pilot will work with five to 10 classes and those faculty members will choose digital books that will be available for all enrolled students in their Moodle or Canvas portals this spring, according to ALS committee member and bookstore manager, Amy Berger. The student can choose to keep access to that material at a lower cost or opt out of it if they wanted to go else where for the book.

“We’re still in the process of identifying courses and working with the university on all of the logistics,” Berger said. “It’s all about how do we get these materials into students hands so they can be successful the first day of class and bring the price down?”

A CSUN program that has already seen success is the Business Law department’s Textbook Affordability Initiative.

For all core classes required for business students, only select books with e-text versions available and they’ve worked with publishing companies to produce cheaper options.

“If you look at business law textbooks it’s shocking, $218 new,” business law chair and professor Melanie Williams said. “As a professor, it breaks my heart when students say they can’t do the homework because they couldn’t afford the book.”

The publishing companies charge by page and many courses only use a quarter of the entire book, Williams said. The department worked a deal with textbook publishers to produce soft bound copies and only print the chapters/pages that will be used in that specific course to bring costs down.

“The people choosing these books aren’t the ones buying them,” Williams said. “If it was their money maybe they’d treat it a little different; we try to treat it as if it were our own money.”