A couple of pens and pencils: $4. Four notebooks, three binders and loose-leaf paper: $12. Two $200 textbooks that you’ll never be able to use again: worthless. When it comes to college, students are willing to spend thousands of dollars each semester for a good education. However, when they find that a good portion of their scholarly budget is going to topics that aren’t relevant to their major, they feel as though they’re being cheated.
Signing up for classes has always been a masochistic love of mine. I know that one day the classes will have me up at 3 a.m. attempting to make last-minute edits to a term paper, but otherwise it’s like expensive Christmas shopping. This year, I was happiest with my shopping list because I didn’t have to buy too many books. Out of the five classes I’m taking this semester, I only have three required textbooks, one being a $13 book for my voice class. Something that didn’t rock was how much my two geology textbooks cost, and I found my excitement quickly eroding.
For a lab workbook and a textbook, I spent $162. Am I interested in geology? Yes; but not enough to be happy that the majority of the money I was spending was for an ACE requirement. I will never use either of the books again in my life, and I will never have another chance to see that money again. One of them is a binder textbook, and the other is a workbook that I have to write in for lab once a week. Even if I get the opportunity to resell the textbook, it won’t have a great resell value.
ACE requirements are meant to help us build an education that is “irrespective of [our majors] and career aspirations” so that we can be well rounded by the time we reach graduation. But should that additional knowledge really cost students upward of $200? No, no it shouldn’t.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group recently surveyed 2,000 college students in various states and universities and found the average student spends about $1,200 each year on textbooks and supplies alone. It doesn’t help that the price of textbooks continues to rise at a rate that would make even oil companies blush.
How are students supposed to react to such prices? Unfortunately, many decide against buying the books altogether. The U.S. Public Interest Group reports that 65 percent of students say they abstain from buying the books because they’re too pricey to afford. Of that group of students, 94 percent say they were also worried about failing the class.
With this in mind, we can see the textbook situation is broken and needs fixing. One way we can attempt to remedy this rather egregious oversight is by looking at how much money students are spending on non-major related classes. If anything, we can put a cap on how much money students can spend on ACE requirement textbooks. Ensuring that students don’t need to spend more than $100 for their required reading will already be a great relief for students’ wallets.
Although this can be difficult for science and math classes whose textbooks touch the $200 or $300 price range, teachers can find alternate means to get students the information they need to know. In the world of technology, there’s a fantastic innovation that goes by the name of PDF. Teachers can simply photocopy particular pages of importance and offer them online via Blackboard. For English classes, instead of requiring that each student buy a physical copy of the book, they can utilize Project Gutenberg and read classic pieces of literature online for free.
In addition, if teachers were to stop requiring iClickers in classes, students would save about $50 for a remote that they rarely have to use again. Teachers could, instead, have students sign in as they entered class or fill out quiz papers for a means of attendance. I’m sure students would like having that extra $50 in their pockets.
The Public Interest Research Group finds that if such practices were adopted in academia, institutions such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison would accumulate more than $6 million in student savings in the course of one year. Imagine how much money students would be able to save if we were to adopt these policies? Students wouldn’t have to worry about contemplating whether they should sacrifice an ‘A’ in their ACE class or buying a $250 textbook.
No one likes spending money, especially on unnecessary expenses. If ACE requirement courses are meant to better prepare us for the world outside of college, it seems odd that they should be putting students into further debt than when they enter into it. If we can at least cap the amount of money we can spend on these classes, then they’ll become a grade-A investment.
Emily Kuklinski is a junior English and theatre major. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @TheFunnyEmily