OPINION: Open textbook initiative well-intended; underfunded student service


At the beginning of each semester, college students can often be swamped with expenses. August can mean having to put down hundreds of dollars for a deposit on an apartment, tuition and textbooks. That’s a lot all at once and can be a struggle for many of us.

Brian Lindshield, associate professor in food, nutrition, dietetics and health, and other professors at Kansas State realized this and have started to take steps to offer students some relief by providing cheaper textbooks through the open textbook initiative.

“As a student, I had always felt exploited (when buying textbooks),” Lindshield said.

So he decided if he were ever in the position to do so, he would do what he could to stop the nickel-and-diming of broke college students just trying to get the required texts for their classes.

Lindshield and Andrew Bennett, professor of mathematics, proposed that the Student Governing Association allot some funds for other K-State professors who are willing to create their own textbooks or adopt another alternative to traditional textbooks.

This is a lot of work, and the budget for these stipends is decreasing. Professors have to go through an application process to receive a stipend of up to $5,000, according to K-State Libraries “The Open/Alternative Textbook Initiative” webpage.

If approved, that professor would then have hundreds of hours of work ahead of them if they are creating a text from scratch, Lindshield said. If they decide to just alter a textbook available to them, it takes a little less time.

It’s demanding a lot from the professors, but students would have access to the finished product for a $10 fee.

That sounds absolutely amazing. Just imagine trying to get a $10 textbook under any other circumstances. College students spend an average of $313 on required course material, according to the National Association of College Stores’ “FAQ on textbooks” webpage. The open textbook initiative could change that number to around $10.

This is all counting on professors to want to take the time out of their lives to create these textbooks. Some have already. Lindshield said approximately 40 professors have already jumped on board.

While this is a great initiative, how can we expect professors to add more work on top of their classes or any research they are doing? This means they could have less time to spend with their families or doing the things they enjoy for a possible stipend of $5,000, which might I add, is the max they can receive. That is just asking a lot from them.

While it’s a nice idea, until budget cuts and funding stop being the major roadblocks they are, I wouldn’t expect the initiative to be fully implemented across campus to really help students.

A professor’s job is to make sure his or her students are learning the material, not to create the textbook. If doing so helps professors in the task of cramming as much knowledge as possible into students’ heads, then they should definitely consider putting in that extra work. What’s not the professor’s job is to worry about students’ pockets.

Students are told from the beginning how much college is going to cost, which is extremely unpleasant and stressful, but it’s something they should expect.

To the professors who want to do it, I applaud you and your dedication to your students. To the others, I don’t blame you for not doing it. It’s a lot of work for so little benefits, and honestly, it is not your job to worry about saving students money.

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