Student senate working on textbook grant for faculty

GVL / Sheila Babbitt
A student shops for textbooks in the GVSU Laker Store.

GVL / Sheila Babbitt A student shops for textbooks in the GVSU Laker Store.

Sarah Hollis

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, college tuition and fees in the U.S. have risen 63 percent since January 2006. Many factors have contributed to this increase, one of which is rising textbook prices. 

To help lower the cost of textbooks for students, the Grand Valley State University student senate is partnering with faculty to create a committee that would work to fund a stipend to encourage professors to use or create open textbook resources. 

“We put together a small working group; we’re going to be building the charge that we then propose to ECS (executive committee of the senate) through our representative, the student senate president,” said Eric-John Szczepaniak, chair of the student senate educational affairs committee. “Hopefully within the month we will have come up with a charge for whatever we want this committee structure should be and our recommendations of who should be on the committee.”

Based on how this system works at other universities, the grant/stipend will most likely be available to professors at GVSU on three levels.

“The specifics of the grant will be made in this university committee, but how it has worked at other universities is there are a few levels of what this grant entails,” Szczepaniak said. “The first level is paying faculty somewhere between 200 and 500 dollars just to review a textbook. That gets them acclimated to the idea of open educational resources, and they’ve actually helped that textbook get closer to being used in a classroom somewhere across the country.

“The second level would be adopting one of these textbooks to use in your class. So, if we had this grant in place, it would literally pay the professor to swap over to an open educational textbook. The third level, in a lot of universities that have this program, would be paying them (faculty) a larger amount, a few thousand dollars, to create their own educational resource.”

This system would not be able to run without the grant/stipend going to faculty members who participate in it. 

“The reason why it’s going to require some money behind it is because textbook companies can sometimes reach out to professors and incentivize them to use their product because obviously that generates funds for that textbook company,” Szczepaniak said. “The way to combat that is that we have to make it more appealing and hope that professors will do the right thing by students and swap over to cheaper textbook/open textbook material.” 

There is still a long process that must be completed before this grant/stipend will go into effect at GVSU. 

“Once we get this university committee up and running, they’ll be the ones that, over the course of probably the next year, are figuring out the specifics of where we can get funding for this grant, the levels of the grant and all sorts of logistics by looking at universities that have done it in the past,” Szczepaniak said. “So, a lot of the work will come out of that university committee, and then it goes back to the ECS, which will OK it. Then we can start the program.”