University students want profs to consider free options over textbooks

Some university students may choose not to buy a textbook for a class because they simply can't afford it, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance says in its #TextbookBroke campaign.

Campaign #TextbookBroke highlights high cost of textbooks

A student at University of Victoria takes part in the #TextbookBroke campaign in B.C. (UVSS/Facebook)

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) has relaunched its #TextbookBroke campaign to highlight the high cost of textbooks and urge professors to choose free alternatives.

The group initially launched the campaign in January, and during it, students shared stories about how not being able to afford textbooks impacted their education.

"We saw students were spending about an average of $500 on textbooks," said Shannon Kelly, vice president of student affairs for the Wilfrid Laurier University Students' Union and  vice president of finance for OUSA.

"Some students had to pick and choose between what textbooks they felt that they actually needed and could afford."

The campaign is promoting professors and instructors using "open educational resources." That includes things such as eCampus Ontario's open textbook library.

'Open textbooks work'

Matt Gerrits, vice president of education with the Federation of Students at the University of Waterloo, said the message professors need to hear is that just because it's a free resource, it doesn't make it unreliable or bad.

"Open textbooks work. They're a great way to improve affordability of education to students. They're not that hard to put together, and we think there should be more of them," he said.

The Federation of Students runs a used bookstore on campus to help students, but Gerrits suggested students should speak to their professors about using free resources.

At Laurier, Kelly said the bookstore rents textbooks and the library usually has a copy of textbooks, but those options aren't the most reliable.

"[Students] don't feel that they can hit the ground running with their courses," she said.

"There's a lot of reading involved in several university courses. So when you can't get that right away because you have to wait to be able to afford it or if you're not able to afford it, you already feel behind in your classes, which definitely impacts your learning experience at the end of the day."