Finley Reilley: A solution to replace college textbook access codes

Published: 2/17/2020 9:55:46 AM

A college education is crucial in today’s economy. It is key to any kind of upward mobility, and for myself and other students from low-income families, the only hope for a financially stable future comes from an education.

We struggle under the weight of that education’s lofty price tag: we eat cheap, buy next to nothing, work hard, and take on a crushing amount of loan debt, but according to textbook publishers, we haven’t struggled enough.

The digital age has, for many students, phased out physical textbooks. Their replacement comes in the form of access codes: long passwords that grant access to the latest edition of some shiny new edition textbook, as well as access to the online homework.

Their price tag? Around $100. The days of buying used copies or sharing with a friend are long gone. Not buying the access code means failing the course. As the beginning-of-semester grace period for lacking these resources ticks down, I am left deciding whether to completely drain my meager savings to pay for a password, or whether or not to buy groceries.

The use of access codes is only getting more popular and more costly. Students spend, on average, $1,400 a year just on supplies for courses. Some professors may feel as if the switch to access codes are inevitable, but they’re not.

A solution exists: Open Educational Resources, or OERs. OERs cover everything that is hidden behind an access code’s paywall: textbooks, homework, quizzes and other materials. The only difference is that they are published under an open source license, which allows them to be freely distributed to students without sacrificing quality of education.

Switching to OERs allows all students to thrive and learn stress-free, not just the ones with a few hundred dollars to spare.

Finley Reilley

Amherst




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