Tuition is not the problem, books are!

Post Image On Friday, the Board of Governors at the University of Alberta approved a 4.6% increase in tuition fees. That translates to an extra $215.55 for general arts and science students. Of course the decision made the local news and predictably the segments focused on the extra burden this places on students.

But more than teaching or deferred maintenance, it was the question of affordability that concerned Students’ Union President Michael Janz.

Janz stressed that every time fees are increased, the debt loads that students incur go up, as do the chances that someone will not apply to the U of A because they see it as financially unfeasible.

I mean, what do you expect the SU President to say? Of course he’s got to side with students on the issue, that’s his job.

I think the focus should not be on tuition, however. Looking back on my time at the university, I think the problem are textbooks. Sure tuition is expensive and I am repaying student loans now, but it was textbooks that were the real killer.

In my last two years, I avoided purchasing textbooks whenever possible. The idea of spending $175 for a 150 page book just drove me nuts. Especially since most of the content in the books can be found elsewhere. The other thing that sucks is when a professor requires the latest edition of a textbook, meaning students cannot purchase the less expensive old editions.

There’s no reason to force students to purchase ridiculously expensive textbooks. Hell, there’s pretty much no reason to have physical textbooks at all! Just offer digital versions instead. Or incorporate free materials.

I think getting rid of the expensive textbooks would help students far more than trying to prevent tuition increases.

Read: The Gateway

5 thoughts on “Tuition is not the problem, books are!

  1. "The other thing that sucks is when a professor requires the latest edition of a textbook, meaning students cannot purchase the less expensive old editions"

    It’s not always the professors that require the new editions.

    In my undergrad BLAW classes, my professor would try to order the old edition, so that students could buy them used – but sometimes the publisher would just not print the old edition, thereby forcing students to buy new editions.

  2. I bought 3 textbooks in all of med school with the reason being that I still had books from my undergrad in their plastic wrapper that I never even opened.

  3. I remember the first time I went to buy books…even though they were used, I was still appalled at the price! The idea of professors using off-the-shelf books as textbooks is a good one. Imagine being able to pop over to and get a couple of books with free shipping! Who knows, the students might learn more that way, but even if not, I think everyone involved would be happier. Except for the textbook publishers. 🙂

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