DelBene Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Lower College Textbook Costs
Today, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to help college students save money on textbooks by encouraging the use of low-cost or free digital course materials in higher education. The bill was introduced with Rep. Josh Harder (D-CA) and Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN).
The E-BOOK Act – or Electronic Books Opening Opportunity for Knowledge Act – would direct $20 million for the Department of Education 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.
“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.”
“It’s not just the price tag of college tuition that is out of control these days – textbooks also cost an arm and a leg and it’s something I heard about all the time from my students when I taught at Modesto Junior College,” said Rep. Harder (D-CA). “It’s time to bring education into the 21st century by getting more e-books into classrooms and into the hands of students. This bill will save college kids money, make education more accessible, and save a bunch of trees along the way.”
“Students and their families too often are overwhelmed with the burdensome costs associated with higher education,” stated Congresswoman Brooks (IN-05). “It is critically important to bring 21st century innovations and new technologies such as digital textbooks, e-readers, and tablets into our classrooms by making low-cost course materials more widely available particularly for low income students. The E-BOOK Act is one step we can take to ease financial burdens our students are facing and facilitate the transition to more affordable higher education in the future.”
Students today spend more than $1,000 per year on college textbooks and course materials. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), costs increased by 88 percent between 2006 and 2016. 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.
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 hopes to have the language in this bill included in the Higher Education Act Reauthorization during this Congress.
In the 115th Congress, DelBene 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.