USG hopes to alleviate pressure of climbing textbook prices for students

While textbook costs continue to be an issue among students, the University of Iowa’s Undergraduate Student Government is hoping to take the first steps toward relieving the financial stress placed on students who are forced to buy textbooks.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

University of Iowa Undergraduate Student Government Cabinet Director Vera Barkosky poses for a portrait at the Iowa Memorial Union on Jan. 17 2022.

Ryan Hansen, News Reporter

The University of Iowa recommends students plan for textbook costs of $950 per semester on top of tuition, housing, food, and transportation costs. The UI’s Undergraduate Student Government is trying to change that.

USG will attempt to address increasing textbook costs among a variety of other issues at the Association of Big Ten Students starting Jan. 28 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The association focuses on increasing collaboration between student governments at all Big Ten institutions.

UI Undergraduate Student Government Senator Amisha Mohanty will be one of seven members going to the conference at the end of the month for a meeting of the Association of Big Ten Students to discuss a range of topics including textbook affordability.

Other topics of interest at the meeting include fraternity and sorority life, food insecurity, and mental health and wellness.

“These discussions interest me because education is pricey as it is and I think textbooks are something that everyone can compromise on,” Mohanty said. “We’re paying tuition and I feel like that’s something we can’t mark down, simply because there’s too many [variables]. Textbooks are just one aspect of that.”

She said one main issue she sees is the buying or selling of textbooks is heavily dominated by large companies.

“All of the textbooks I found were on, say, Amazon and [other] big companies that would profit off of it, even though it’s supposed to be for student’s benefit,” Mohanty said. “I think something that I would propose is that we code an app ourselves, and it’s student-owned, and we’re the ones selling our textbooks on it or buying textbooks from it.”

Mohanty said companies claim textbooks are not highly profitable, but new books can cost more than $100.

She said one possible solution could include opening a dialogue between student governments and textbook publishers about the cost of new textbooks.

“Because they are pricey, we’re leaning towards used textbooks,” Mohanty said. “This is a loss for publishers, so even if they agree to mark down a little bit, it would be a win-win situation on both sides.”

UI sophomore Hasya Joshi said he spends about $300 per semester on textbooks, much less than the university estimates. However, he said he carefully analyzes a variety of websites to determine the best possible price and delivery format for a course-required textbook.

“I think a lot of times, students don’t know where the right places to go [are],” Joshi said. “They’ll just go where their friends go, so they’ll literally go to the bookstore straight away and grab the most expensive book on the shelf.”

Joshi said he often rents or purchases PDF files of the books instead of spending more money to own the physical copy of the book. He said he would much rather have the physical copies of the books if they were affordable.

“When I read my books online, on a screen, my brain starts to drift after a while,” Joshi said. “I feel like I don’t do that when I have hard copies of the textbooks and I have actual pages I’m reading off of. I feel like a lot of students can also attest to [that].”

Joshi said he would be willing to pay up to $500 for a bundle that included hard copies of the textbooks he needed for a semester. He said he believes these bundles would make textbook shopping much simpler for students and provide a better learning experience.

“If cost wasn’t an issue, I would always get hard copies of textbooks,” Joshi said. “I think it should be more affordable because of tuition costs and also, I’m living in the dorms and so I have to pay for my housing and dining, so it all adds up to quite a bit.”

USG’s Cabinet Director, Vera Barkosky is the liaison between the association and the University of Iowa’s student government.

“Students that attend the conference share what they advocate for on their own campus and then they have the opportunity to inquire about certain processes that are in the works at other Big Ten institutions,” Barkosky said. “It’s really about collaboration between universities.”

Those collaborative efforts include roundtable discussions on particular propositions and the association will bring legislation for the universities to vote on, Barkosky said.

“I know that myself, our President and Vice President, and our attendees already have such a rich knowledge of the ins and outs of what students are experiencing and what they want to see,” Barkosky said. “My hope is that they bring what they have learned to the conference and be able to expand these ideas even more.”