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Textbook prices likely to be chopped by 40 to 80 percent in select classes this spring

For students in classes participating in a new pilot program, textbook prices will be significantly lower than in past semesters.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

If you’re enrolled in one of the 16 classes that are part of a new pilot program, you’re in luck — your textbooks may be significantly cheaper than in previous semesters.

The Associated Students of Madison worked with Steve Cramer, UW-Madison’s vice provost for teaching and learning, to launch the pilot program, which is expected to cut the price of textbooks significantly in select classes.

The program, which will begin this spring, will provide online text materials to students in lieu of traditional textbooks. Prices will be about 40 to 80 percent lower per textbook, according to a university website.

The classes in the program span across university departments and schools. They are:

  • Letters and Science: Chemistry 311, Economics 101, Math 211, Physics 103, Political Science 140, Psychology 210
  • Business: General Business 301, General Business 302, Marketing 423, Marketing 724
  • Human Ecology: Consumer Science 201, Consumer Science 657, Human Development and Family Studies 362
  • Engineering: Civil and Environmental Engineering 310, Civil and Environmental Engineering 370
  • Education: Kinesiology 337

Initially, the pilot was going to take effect within just one department, but the leaders of the initiative eventually decided to broaden the program to include “different students with different feedback,” according to ASM Rep. Alex Hader.

ASM adopted legislation in September giving the green light to the program, which is the latest of a number of student government campaigns to reduce the cost of textbooks. Hader, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said the initiative is necessary because textbook prices are “a problem on all college campuses.”

“[The pilot] definitely satisfies a need for students who have different socioeconomic statuses and might not be able to afford textbooks,” Hader, who is also the chair of ASM’s Equity and Inclusion Committee, said.

Hader said the pilot is currently only in place for the spring, but that the goal is to continue the program in subsequent semesters. She cited Indiana University as an example of a school that has had a successful e-textbook program for years. The school has saved its students millions of dollars through the program, according to Cramer.

At the ASM meeting when the initiative was introduced, some representatives raised concerns about leaving behind students who prefer traditional print textbooks to online texts. But the new pilot program addresses this problem, Hader said — students can either opt out of the program or purchase a printed version of the book for an additional $10.

“We’re going towards e-textbooks anyway, whether we like it or not,” Hader said. “We might as well save [students] money in the process.”

The pilot uses a platform called Unizin Engage, which is integrated with students’ Canvas accounts. The Educational Innovation Initiative, working alongside the Office of the Provost, Office of the Registrar and DoIT Academic Technology (AT), will lead the rollout of the program. 

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