AVON PARK - As South Florida State College looks for ways to provide affordable textbooks and course materials, it may take initiatives at the state level, including legislation, to cut costs for all students.
SFSC Vice President of Administrative Services Glenn Little has been asked to serve on a state task force that will seek ways to reduce textbook prices.
"I think it's a task force that has been assembled in preparation for the legislative session because the cost of textbooks is certainly a concern statewide," he said. There is a thought that Florida statutes need to be changed to allow colleges to charge a textbook fee as part of the tuition, which would be one way of reducing costs to students.
The SFSC Board of Trustees was updated Wednesday on the college's efforts to cut textbook costs and develop alternative instructional materials.
The college conducted an electronic textbook pilot program in the spring 2012 semester.
Little noted that the way to get the prices down would be to make electronic textbooks available to every student in a particular class with everyone paying a fee, he said.
"The costs are lower that way, but that is something we are not currently allowed to do on a continuing basis," he explained. "We did it on the pilot basis with an option for students who took this particular course."
The college received some good feedback from the pilot program, Little said. Many of the students preferred hardcopy textbooks a couple of years ago.
"We get the sense today that there is less resistance to electronic textbooks," he said.
Since the pilot program was conducted, there was anticipation of an initiative at the state level, but nothing has happened, Little said.
The college continues to explore the use of technology for course materials.
Little explained that the cost of e-textbooks are substantially lower than hard-copy textbooks, but not all textbooks are available electronically due to copyright and other issues.
To make electronic text materials available for a large number of students would require a statewide, regional or national initiative to encourage publishers to keep their prices low and provide e-texts for all the needed courses, Little said.
"It's a challenging and daunting task to effect that kind of change in a short period of time," he said. "We currently have e-texts available for students to purchase through the bookstore for many courses, but they are not very popular, most people prefer the hard books."
The college has explored "open source," non-copyrighted options as opposed to having all the textbooks provided by publishers, he said. Possibly a publisher-created textbook will not be needed for the core classes that everyone takes, such a English and math. It could be something the college's faculty could develop and maintain.