Cutting college costs

The Weber State University bookstore has new and used textbooks available to students. Photo taken on Jan. 24, 2022.

Weber State University held its first Course Materials Affordability Fair on Feb. 1 from 9 a.m. to noon. The fair was meant to assist WSU students in lowering costs for course materials and finding alternate delivery formats. Experts from the Stewart Library, Wildcat Store, VitalSource and others were available to answer student questions at the fair.

Affordability Advocate Ashely Hilton said that some WSU students reported switching their majors due to the cost of textbooks.

“We have some faculty on campus who aren’t aware of what the retail cost of the book is when they select it, so they don’t know what students are actually going to have to pay at the time, and we’re trying to now share that information with faculty,” Hilton said. “They may have a textbook they really like to use, but we might be able to find it in an alternate format that is a little cheaper for students to purchase.”

Textbooks are available in a variety of forms today, including several ways that are free or low-cost for students. Diana Meiser, the Engineering and Applied Sciences Technology librarian, was at the fair informing faculty about Pressbooks.

“[Pressbooks] is a resource available for faculty to publish book content,” Meiser said. “So they can publish their own textbooks basically. And the nice thing is it’s free for students to read.”

Besides boasting zero cost for students, Pressbooks includes other benefits to aid in academic success. Instructors can embed videos and quizzes with scores that directly transfer to Canvas, according to Meiser.

In addition to creating their own text from scratch, instructors can use and modify existing Open Education Resources for their courses.

“OER is a big initiative all across campus,” Misty Allen, resource sharing and course materials/reserves manager, said. “You know everyone is really excited about that.”

OERs are openly licensed and free to use while covering a wide range of materials and course levels. If a WSU faculty member is interested in learning more about the basics of OERs, they can sign up for a Bridge course that can be completed in 3-4 hours.

“We have a lot of people who look at using a chapter from this open-education resource … to make the one perfect textbook for that class,” Allen said. “There’s a lot of freedom like that.”

Allen was also promoting the Stewart Library’s Course Reserves Collection at the fair. The library has received a budget to buy textbooks off the adoption list for students to access.

The Course Reserves Collection in the library is helping that problem by giving students free access to textbooks.

“[We] try to buy textbooks at the beginning of the semester to help students who can’t afford to buy their text, or maybe can’t afford to buy their text this month, but maybe can next month,” Allen said.

According to Hilton, 80% of WSU students reported not having their course materials on the first day of class. By providing access to course texts early in the semester, students have more time to familiarize themselves with course materials.

“I think we have over 2,000 textbooks over at the library, from gen. ed. to master’s-levels courses,” Andrew Stapley, a course materials specialist, said. “You just have to go up to the service desk.”

The Stewart Library and Wildcat Store hope to hold additional Course Material Fairs in the future where they can continue to share resources to maintain and improve the affordability of Weber State for students.

For more information about the Course Reserves Collection in the library, email [email protected]. If faculty want more information on affordable options for course materials and texts, they should email [email protected].