Staying behind the learning curve
Textbooks in certain subjects might be
As always, the price of college textbooks is on the minds of students. In fact, it's usually among the top complaints students have about the price of attending school.
Terry Taylor, a history professor here at SCC, recalls his college experience with textbooks. "In the 1970s when I was in college, we complained mightily about the cost of textbooks." This has not changed. Today, the rising price of textbooks has been cause of much concern for both students taking classes and the faculty that teach them.
The question is can we go without the new editions that are causing college to be that much more expensive. We know that in some classes a new textbook is necessary. In the sciences when discoveries are made a new edition needs to be created.
The social sciences are in the same boat because many classes such as political science courses need to be updated with relevant current events. That's understandable, but in mathematics and foreign languages, it seems that new editions are being created purely in an effort to make money, and money they are making.
"Plazas," the Spanish text that students are required to use here at SCC runs a cool $220. Many math textbooks that cover basic algebra can cost upwards of $160.
Have the fundamentals of the Spanish language changed much between this year and the last? Has algebra changed? No. The list goes on of books that costs students an arm and a leg, and most of them are updated to include pictures and correct spelling, not because the quadratic formula has changed or there's a need to include new verbs for students learning the basics of a language.
A common excuse for the price of many textbooks is that they are packaged with other materials to entice teachers to choose their text over the competitors. Powerpoint slides, test question banks, homework packets and other tools to make teachers lives easier are now created as part of textbook marketing materials, and the production costs get added to the price of the book.
In other words, we are paying extra money for some of our texts so that publishers can market materials to teachers. Should we be paying for materials that we will never use? Also, I would assume that at the college level, most instructors would prefer to create their own materials focused on what they think is relevant to their course.
We know that textbooks are expensive, so why doesn't the college try to find other options for students? Khanacademy.org is a free website that offers thousands of excellent walkthroughs in all levels of algebra and even calculus. There are hundreds of exercises that students can use for practice, and guess what? It's free.
Many school districts throughout the southwestern United States have adopted to using Khan Academy to assign homework, and it seems to be working. Teachers can monitor student progress, and see what problems they are having trouble with. This type of system not only reduces workload for teachers (no grading handouts), it also saves a lot of paper, and most importantly, student money.
Student loan debt is higher than credit card debt, and the cost of attending school is more expensive than it's ever been. We have incredible technology at our fingertips. Why aren't we using it?