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Lawmaker to push for open online textbooks


College students pay more than $900 annually for textbooks.
College students pay more than $900 annually for textbooks.

Every semester, a few students in Steven White’s business and marketing courses ask to borrow the professor’s copy of the course textbook. They can’t afford one for themselves, White said, and their sub-par exam scores show it.

That’s why White, a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth professor since 1998, supports a federal law that aims to lower skyrocketing college textbook costs by making students privy to a class’s book prices before they register for the course, requires publishers to disclose book prices to professors, and rids textbooks of “bundles” like CDs and access to web sites that raise prices.

The law, known as the College Textbook Affordability Act, was included in the Higher Education Opportunity Act passed by Congress in 2008. The textbook provisions—championed by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.—kicked in July 1.

While colleges and universities are now required to monitor professors and book publishers to ensure they’re abiding by the new rules, Durbin said he would push for passage of another bill that would award competitive one-year grants to colleges, professors, and publishers to create open textbooks available for free on the internet.

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