Photo by Anthony Kurt: Derek Abin, a sophomore criminal justice major heads into the bookstore at Lewis University to purchase books.
Alex Veeneman, Asst. News Editor
Legislation was introduced in the Senate Nov. 14 intended to reduce the cost of textbooks.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act, which would expand the use of textbooks that can be made available online to students, as well as allow the public free access to the books, according to a statement from Durbin’s office.
Durbin said, in that statement, that the act was based on a project with the University of Illinois, when a textbook on sustainability was made available to students. It was determined that subject needed more open sources on campus. Durbin adds the ideas around that project can help the bill be successful.
“The book has been used in a Massive Open Online Course that has been sampled by at least 60,000 students,” Durbin said. “At least a dozen schools throughout the country have either contacted the University of Illinois about the text or are using it. This bill can replicate and build on this success and help make the cost of attending college more affordable.”
Franken said in a statement it would be a cheaper alternative to textbooks.
“In the fight to make college more affordable and accessible for Minnesota families, we can’t overlook the rising costs of textbooks,” Franken said. “I’m proud to introduce this bill with Senator Durbin because it will help provide cheaper alternatives to traditional textbooks and keep more money in students’ pockets where it belongs.”
Durbin’s office says the cost of a textbook has increased by 82 percent over the last three years.
Christina Mulka, a spokeswoman for Durbin, said the bill was currently being reviewed by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee. The bill would go to the Senate floor for a vote after committee passage.
Allison Preiss, a spokeswoman for committee chairman Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), said this was part of many issues being reviewed with Ranking Member Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) ahead of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
The Act was signed in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson, which looks after financial programs for students, as well as other programs for universities.
“The rising cost of attending college—from tuition to textbooks—is just one of the many issues that the Committee will consider as it reauthorizes HEA,” Preiss said. “Chairman Harkin appreciates Senator Durbin and Senator Franken’s commitment to lowering college costs for students and looks forward to reviewing the Affordable College Textbooks Act.”
If the bill passes the Senate, it would then go to the House for review. A spokesperson for Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the house committee on education and the workforce, did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education declined to comment on the record for this story.
It is unclear, if the bill is passed, what the implications on textbook availability for students would be, or if it would widely affect curriculum. Lewis University’s bookstore is owned and operated by the Follett Higher Education Group of Oak Brook. A spokesperson for Follett did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment. Attempts to reach a university spokesperson were unsuccessful.
The University of Minnesota did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment.