The Spiraling Cost of Education/Intro to Affordable Learning Solutions


This is Michelle. Michelle has always been a great student! She graduated top of her class in high school and arrived at Cal State Fullerton excited to learn. But this semester, something changed.
Michelle is withdrawn during class discussions, and struggles to complete her assignments.
So what happened? This semester Michelle just couldn’t afford to buy all of her textbooks. She didn’t get enough financial aid to cover her books and already works as many hours as she can. Her paycheck just doesn’t go far enough. Unfortunately, Michelle’s story is all too common. Overall, 65% of students have gone without their required textbook simply because of cost (Senack, 2014). “College textbook prices rose 82% between 2003 and 2013 – that’s TRIPLE the rate of inflation” (SPARC, n.d.). “Individual textbooks often cost over $200 and sometimes as high as $400” (Senack, 2016). “In comparison with the tens of thousands of dollars spent on tuition or board, a few hundred dollars for textbooks is often…written off as negligible” (Senack, 2016). However, research shows that even a few hundred dollars can mean the difference between dropping out or staying in school. In response to these rising costs, the Cal State system launched an initiative to lower the cost of education called Affordable Learning $olutions. Its mission is to facilitate faculty and student access to “quality free and low-cost learning materials.” Interested faculty may replace expensive textbooks and classroom materials by selecting Open Educational Resources, linking to ebooks, articles, or streaming video at their campus library, or by partnering with the bookstore to discover more affordable options, like digital textbooks. Each academic year, students spend $1,300 on textbooks alone (Brady, 2016). With more than 38,000 students at Cal State Fullerton, imagine the incredible impact of switching to affordable textbooks. Students would save millions! More importantly, students would be less likely to drop out for financial reasons, and with easy access to course materials, your students will show up prepared for class and ready to learn.

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