The University of Iowa Student Government approved funding on Tuesday to bolster UI Libraries’ course-reserve system with a goal of alleviating students’ textbook expenses as a part of a textbook-affordability pilot program.
UISG decided in a unanimous vote to allocate $20,000 over three years for the library to buy materials for its course-reserve system.
The system allows students to check out books for classes and lets faculty request print and electronic course materials to be put on reserve for their students to use throughout the semester at no cost.
“It’s a great opportunity for professors to lower costs for students by using our existing resources,” scholarly communications librarian Mahrya Burnett said.
Because of current limited funds for the system, only a small number of requests from professors are accepted — approximately 10 to 20 a semester, according to the UISG legislation, and limited text resources are available for student checkout.
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The limited acceptance rate “results in professors opting for textbooks rather than course reserves for their classes,” the legislation read.
Both organizations are hoping more resources will alleviate financial pressure on students to buy books — the cost of which have risen by 88 percent in the last 10 years, according to a study done by the Department of Labor and Statistics.
The initiative is part of a larger pilot program between the UI Libraries and UISG to tackle the rising costs of textbooks.
The funding will also be used to keep textbooks on reserve for certain high-traffic classes — ones with 200 or more students and if the book costs $200 or more, Burnett said.
“What we are hoping is that students who won’t be able to afford course materials for, say, Principles of Chem 1, would be able to check out the program materials for the course,” said Tristan Schmidt, the UISG director of academic affairs.
UI admissions accounts for $950 when calculating the cost for a year of college textbooks, and the National Association of College Stores puts up an average of $600 a year based on a 2014 study.
UISG Sen. Sara Bultsma said a Spanish literature class she took used materials solely from the library course reserves.
“We had reading sections from three different big sources,” she said. “If [my professor] hadn’t been approved for that, I don’t know necessarily what she would’ve done, but we potentially could have had to buy three textbooks.”
A subcommittee of three librarians and three students will decide what textbooks to purchase with the funds — of which $6,667 will be used for the fall 2018 semester.
“We assume that there’ll be more books that meet our criteria than what we have money to actually purchase for, so that’s where the committee comes in,” Burnett said.
Other initiatives the pilot program has undertaken are starting a textbook-donation system announced last semester, to be implemented at the end of spring semester, in which students can donate textbooks so other students will be able to rent them.