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Textbook Affordability Project expands, advises faculty on cheaper options for classes

Dean of USF Libraries Todd Chavez said that six full-time employees are now devoted to textbook affordability, as opposed to the two that were employed in the early days of the program. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

As the cost of being a college student continues to rise, a program from 2010 has recently re-energized a campaign to lower textbook prices across USF Tampa and eventually to USF’s Sarasota-Manatee and St. Pete campuses as well.

The Textbook Affordability Project (TAP) seeks to provide affordable textbook options for students by encouraging professors to choose low-cost textbook requirements for their courses without sacrificing the quality of the material.

According to CollegeBoard, students spent about $1,200 on textbooks in the 2017-18 academic year at both public and private colleges.

Todd Chavez, dean of The USF Libraries, said the TAP project fits state legislation, which came into effect regarding the lowering of textbook prices.

“In March of 2016, there was a legislative effort to require universities to work toward reducing the cost of textbooks for students,” Chavez said. “That strongly energized the work that we had been doing up to that point.”

During the early years of the program, only two people were active on the project, Chavez said. However, now over six full-time personnel are devoted to textbook affordability.

According to Chavez, each department at USF is slowly being given recommendations as to how they can reduce the cost of textbooks for their students. If a professor feels as though the quality is being sacrificed, they have the right to deny the recommendation.

“Faculty is trying very hard to make sure that the quality of the education is preserved,” Chavez said. “If they feel as though the lower cost option is not of sufficient quality then they may not choose it.”

As the project has matured, some faculty members are pleased that textbook selection for their courses has already been done for them, according to Chavez. More time is allotted to focus on teaching while simultaneously making good decisions for students in terms of material cost.

It is more difficult in some departments to reduce the cost of materials than others, Chavez said. However, work can still be done to reduce textbook costs through the means in which students purchase the book.

“A print book is almost always more expensive than a digital book,” Chavez said. “A rented book is always less expensive than a purchased book. There are still things we can do, even if we can’t change the book or change the type of material it’s made from because of a quality issue.

“There’s always ways that we can reduce the cost of that quality material.”