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DelBene Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Lower College Textbook Costs

As students return to campus, Congresswoman DelBene reintroduced the E-BOOK Act to encourage the use of digital textbooks and make college more affordable.

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Washington, September 28, 2017 | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) reintroduced bipartisan legislation today to help college students save money on textbooks by encouraging the use of low-cost or free digital course materials in higher education.

“An often overlooked driver of the rising cost of college is textbooks and supplies. In addition to tackling tuition hikes and burdensome student loan debt, we must find solutions to the other factors making a college degree less attainable for working families,” DelBene said. “Technology is changing the classroom experience, and the E-BOOK Act will help spur innovation in our colleges by incentivizing the adoption of new learning technologies, which in turn will save students money.”

The E-BOOK Act – or Electronic Books Opening Opportunity for Knowledge Act – would direct the Department of Education to use $20 million to create 10 pilot programs at public institutions throughout the country to increase access to digital course materials, expand the availability of e-readers and tablets for low-income students and encourage professors to incorporate new learning technologies into their classes.

Congressman Tom Marino (R-PA) is an original cosponsor of the bill.

“While many colleges and universities are looking for ways to lower the cost of tuition for their students, the cost of textbooks often gets overlooked. College students have been dealing with rising textbook and course materials costs for many years,” Marino said. “The E-BOOK Act is a step in the right direction by helping colleges implement the use of digital course materials in the classroom. One college in my district has already begun a policy to provide students with a tablet and their course materials installed. The program has been a success and as a result, students no longer need to worry about the extra costs of textbooks. I am happy to join Congresswoman DelBene in introducing this bill.”

Students today spend more than $1,000 per year on college textbooks and course materials, which continue to become more costly each year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Digital textbooks are estimated to cost as much as 50 percent less than new print textbooks. A number of other low-cost course materials, including freely available open educational resources (OER), are also becoming more widely available.

“The costs of textbooks are very unpredictable and potentially crippling for struggling students. The scholarships we receive for tuition rarely cover the price of books, which means students who are already struggling to pay bills and buy food must find a way to pay for these books,” said Emily Deardorff, a student at Western Washington University. “I find myself debating whether to spend hundreds of dollars on a book or attempt to go through the class without it. I've seen friends do poorly in classes because they couldn't afford to buy textbooks after paying their rent. To increase the availability of lower cost e-books would help engage all students, not just the ones who can afford it.”

Unfortunately, limited access to computers and other devices, such as e-readers and tablets, remains a barrier for low-income students. Many institutions also lack the resources to help instructors incorporate digital learning into their teaching.

DelBene has also introduced the Higher Education Loan Payments (HELP) for Students and Parents Act to make college more affordable by modernizing how the tax code treats employer contributions toward student loan repayment, and helped introduce the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act to allow students and families with undergraduate student debt to refinance their loans.

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Tags: Education