Textbooks or food?: the unfortunate decision many university students are facing

Photo by Romina BM on Unsplash

No student at Brock is a stranger to the many expenses coming hand-in-hand with any program. University students are well aware of what needs to be done in order to successfully complete their courses: studying the material, attending classes, taking notes, and doing the weekly readings. Behind each of these imperative actions is some sort of required fee: tuition costs, ancillary fees, and often the most significant, textbook expenses.

Textbooks are often an unavoidable aspect of university life. The majority of classes at Brock require some sort of price to be dropped on an additional resource besides a professor’s intellectual property. Prices of these textbooks, which can be purchased at Brock’s Campus Store, can range anywhere from a novella under $20 to a massive manual costing a couple hundred dollars. Although some workbooks at the campus store are available in a used form for a slightly cheaper price, the majority of students find themselves having no other option than to pay the full price of their courses’ required readings, or else they suffer the consequences.

“As an upper-year student at Brock, I’ve spent a couple thousand dollars on my textbooks over the last few years,” said Lyrisa Nixon, a fourth-year history student. “In an attempt to save money, I often find myself scrambling to avoid paying for textbooks as much as possible considering that the majority of my tuition is paid out of my own pocket.” 

Nixon is one of the many students struggling to find the funds to pay for textbooks on top of the many other required university fees. Although avoiding paying for textbooks is an option for some courses, it easily hinders a student’s quality of learning, and many professors do not make such an option accessible by deeming the purchasing of certain textbooks required to even pass a course.

“I have paid up to $250 for some of my individual textbooks in the past. I remember having to pay between $100 to $200 for a looseleaf textbook written by the professors teaching the course in my first year. I have often had my professors deem their own books as required course materials,” said Nixon.

Such cases present students with no other option than to purchase their required readings, subsequently getting in the way of any other necessary purchases students may have to make in addition to their school expenses.

The Open Textbook Initiative, established by eCampusOntario, is one of the programs working to aid students in limiting textbook funding, consequently allowing more room for other necessary expenses that students are required to live on, such as rent, groceries, etc.

The initiative works to provide a solution to textbook fees by offering online or in-print versions of course textbooks for free or at a much lower price. These textbooks can be found on eCampusOntario’s Open Library. The initiative has partnered with several post-secondary schools across southern Ontario to offer open textbooks for select courses. Some participating schools consist of Algonquin College, Centennial College, Carleton University, McMaster University and Queen’s University. The program has even partnered with Brock, creating open textbooks for Planetary Science and Foundational Physics courses.

The initiative has also produced a poster titled “Textbooks or Food,” which you can find a copy of here as well as on the bulletin board located on the main floor of Brock’s library. 

By having students read and continue to spread such information, either by contacting student governments, speaking with instructors or sharing the news with fellow students, eCampusOntario works to create much more affordable textbook options for university students. 

Although Brock has demonstrated its commitment to the program by partnering with the initiative for select courses and attempting to spread its information, much more can still be done as the majority of students remain deeply affected by current textbook fees.

“Many of us, myself included, are in thousands of dollars of debt trying to pay for university. The lack of compassion from Brock regarding the impossibility of the financial situations that many of us students find ourselves in is a slap in the face to us all,” said Nixon.

To learn more about eCampusOntario and their Open Textbook Initiative, be sure to visit their website while continuing to spread the information around Brock.

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