| 03.20.2018

Signing to save – UI is taking a step in the right direction by moving forward on with OpenStax


The life of a college student is one of never ending fees.

From tuition to lab fees, parking passes to health insurance, a student”s bill only seems to increase with each new semester. Fortunately, the University of Idaho”s recent decision to sign on with OpenStax, an open source textbook system, will help students save money on a necessary, but overpriced, college tool – textbooks.

The free platform not only provides free online versions of textbooks, but it also allows faculty to select chapters and topics from peer-reviewed curriculum to create textbooks that are customized to fit their course objectives.

Although currently the program would only provide textbooks for first and second-year science and math courses, this is still a tremendous step toward alleviating some of the financial stressors placed on students. Introductory level courses are taken by a large number of students each semester – and have infamously high book prices –   which could lead to a large impact.

After paying for tuition, housing and groceries or a meal plan, many students don”t have any money left in their budget to buy textbooks every semester. A single textbook alone can cost $200, and for students with full course loads, the money they put toward textbooks could easily cover months” worth of rent or other living expenses.

As a result, some students take a chance and decide to not buy textbooks at all. While textbooks might not be crucial for some upper division classes that are more seminar-based, it”s important that first and second-year students are able to tap into as many resources as they possibly can to build a strong foundation for their college career.

A first-year student who barely has enough money to feed themselves is going to spend what little money they have to try to get by rather than on textbooks, leaving them disadvantaged in the classroom.

While the OpenStax program doesn”t mean free textbooks for every student all of the time, it is a huge step forward for the university. UI is among a handful of other colleges who are taking steps toward providing free online textbooks to their students. The fact that UI is taking this step, while other universities have yet to enact something like it, shows that the university is doing what it can to adapt to the needs of its students.

For those who don”t enjoy or aren”t able to read PDFs off of a screen, psychical copies of the textbooks available through OpenStax can be printed and bound at the VandalStore. The cost of a printed textbook from OpenStax is about $40, which is far less expensive than the hundreds of dollars that physical copies of textbooks can sometimes be.

Similar to eBooks or renting textbooks through companies like Amazon and Chegg, OpenStax falls into the category of inexpensive alternative textbook sources. While it won”t eliminate the cost of textbooks entirely, it”s definitely a step in the right direction.

– CB

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