Congressman Rubén Hinojosa Introduces Legislation to Help Make College Textbooks More Affordable

Washington, D.C.- Today – Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX-15) along with U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), introduced legislation designed to help students manage costs by making high quality textbooks easily accessible to students, professors and the public for free.  This bill, known as the Affordable College Textbook Act, would create a competitive grant program for institutions of higher education to create and expand the use of textbooks that can be made available online and licensed under terms that grant the public the right to freely access, customize and distribute the material, also known as “open textbooks”. Open textbooks are educational resources that are made available free of charge to the public.  This allows professors, students, researchers, and others to freely access these materials as a supplement or alternative to traditional textbooks.

“When buying a textbook becomes a barrier to education you know something has to been changed and that’s exactly what we want to achieve with the Affordable College Textbook Act,” said U.S. Rep. Hinojosa. “I have always strived to make college more accessible and more affordable for students and this legislation will lessen the high cost of an important commodity for learning while helping students save money.” 

A companion bill was filed in the U.S. Senate by Senators Al Franken (D-Minnesota) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). “Textbook costs, often overlooked, can be a substantial barrier to attaining a college education.  I thank Representative Hinojosa, Representative Miller and Senator Franken for supporting this bill that will build on our previous efforts to reduce these textbook costs and ultimately make college more affordable,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. 

Textbook costs are one of the most overlooked costs of going to college, but they can be substantial and can be a barrier to attaining a college education.  According to College Board, the average student budget for college books and supplies during the 2012-2013 academic year was $1,200.

“The current textbook publishing market has little competition, leaving students stuck with few options and drastically high prices,” said U.S. PIRG Higher Education Associate Ethan Senack. “With open textbooks, the cost-saving potential for students is massive – around 80-100% compared to published textbooks. This bill harnesses the power of innovation and technology to give students a more affordable education, and we applaud Congressmen Hinojosa and Miller for their leadership on the issue.

While a June 2013 GAO Report required by the law found that students had more information and publishers and schools were generally complying with the new disclosure requirements, it also found that the price of textbooks had continued to rise.

“Textbook prices are simply unaffordable and have become a barrier to academic success for too many students,” said Nicole Allen, Open Educational Resources Program Director for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.  “This bill would help more colleges leverage open educational resources to make higher education more affordable and accessible for all.

Making high-quality open textbooks freely available to the general public can significantly lower college textbook costs and increase accessibility to higher education.  Open textbooks can also improve learning and teaching through course materials that are more flexible, adaptable, and accessible for professors. 

Specifically, the Affordable College Textbook Act:

  • Creates a grant program to support pilot programs at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for those programs that will achieve the highest savings for students
  • Ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using program funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public
  • Requires entities who receive funds to complete a report on the effectiveness of the program in achieving savings for students
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress by 2017 with an update on the price trends of college textbooks