Push to make college textbooks free receives UW-Eau Claire support

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A higher education may be valuable but students know it hardly comes at a value price.

“There’s a lot between rent, groceries, gas, parking permit, tuition, just everything,” said UW-Eau Claire senior Sierra Freid.

Along with shelling out the big bucks for tuition students spend an average of a thousand dollars on books a year, plus reports show textbook prices are skyrocketing. They’re up 82 percent between 2002 to 2012.

UW-Eau Claire freshman Mallory Daniels said some of her friends have spent a large chunk of change to make sure they’re prepared for classes.

“They've had to spend hundreds dollars on theirs, but I mean if I didn't have to pay anything at all my textbooks that would great,” said Daniels.

The Affordable College Textbook Act wants to literally lighten the load for students.

It would create a grant program for colleges to have online, openly shared, free textbooks that would be tailor made to each course.

“Instead of buying a $150 book they could use this free online book,” said Sen. Al Franken (D) Minnesota, one of the authors of the proposal.

The group of senators includes senator Dick Durbin (D) Illinois want to leverage today's technology to reduce costs and expand textbook access.

“This is what the 21st century is going to look like,” said Durbin.

So, instead of students heading to their university bookstore and having to scour through hundreds of textbooks, they could instead use "open textbooks" which would be available online for free or in print at a low cost.

Even universities like UW-Eau Claire with cost-cutting measures like renting and used books support the effort.

Associate Vice Chancellor Mike Wick said, “An open textbook, if used properly and with alternatives provided for those who can't afford any devices necessary to use those, that's a wonderful resources to help student control the cost of higher education.”

Wick said the university supports any effort to keep the cost of education down.

“It's a sign of the right intent and that is to do something nationally that can help higher education remain affordable for all families.”

Currently students at UW-Eau Claire pay a flat rate fee to rent textbooks. Wick says he believes students still spend a few hundred dollars to buy books per year.

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