Lawmakers Reintroduce Affordable Textbook Legislation

The Affordable College Textbook Act calls for investments in a free, open textbook program.
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Published on March 29, 2023
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  • The Affordable College Textbook Act aims to lessen the financial burden of textbooks for college students.
  • The College Board estimates that four-year college students spent an average of $1,240 on books and supplies for the current academic year.
  • This bill also calls for additional transparency in textbook costs.

Lawmakers continue to push for more affordable college textbooks and cost transparency for students.

A coalition of four U.S. senators, led by Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois, reintroduced the Affordable College Textbook Act on Monday. The proposal pushes for further investment in creating open-source college textbooks to lower the burden books and supplies have on college students.

The College Board found that the average college student budget for course materials during the 2022-2023 academic year was $340 at four-year public institutions. Durbin's statement also cited a U.S. Public Interest Research Group's Education Fund survey that stated 65% of students skip buying a textbook due to cost, and 94% of those students worried about how it would affect their grades.

"Students already are facing momentous barriers to obtaining a college education because of the rising costs of tuition," Durbin said in a statement. "On top of this, students are expected to shell out additional dollars to purchase expensive, required textbooks for their coursework."

The Affordable College Textbook Act's main goal is to establish a permanent grant program to help fund the creation of open-source textbooks.

The Department of Education (ED) has been doing something similar in recent years. The Open Textbook Pilot Program has awarded $34 million in grants to 18 institutions since 2018, according to the department.

Congress approved another $12 million in funds for the program for fiscal year 2023.

Textbooks developed under the program the Affordable College Textbook Act proposes would be available under an open license. This means professors, students, and researchers would be able to access these materials freely.

The proposed bill would also force institutions to state on course schedules when an open textbook is available, rather than more costly options.

The other legislators who are co-sponsors of the bill include:

  • Independent Angus King of Maine
  • Democrat Tina Smith of Minnesota
  • Independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona

These were the same three co-sponsors of last year's Affordable College Textbook Act proposal.

This is the sixth time lawmakers have proposed the bill, according to GovTrack.