Textbooks on the Rise

EvCC staff and students discuss textbook prices and alternate resource options.

A+bookcase+of+materials+inside+the+TRiO+office%2C+located+in+Monte+Cristo+Hall.

Adrianna Vison-Montgomery

A bookcase of materials inside the TRiO office, located in Monte Cristo Hall.

Recently, EvCC’s Student LIFE spoke to congressman Rick Larsen about textbook costs. They expressed student’s concern over needing to pay for textbooks with price tags. 

However, teachers are aware of this situation. Some are already working on changing it.

Juergen Kneifel is a Business Administration teacher. When he is the only person teaching the course, he gets to choose the textbook. For his Sales Fundamentals course this quarter, he chose a “non-traditional” textbook. Because of this, the book only costs about $22, according to Kneifel.

Sometimes Kneifel isn’t in charge of selecting the textbook. For courses that have multiple sections, the teachers meet to discuss the pros and cons of different books and their publishers. For Intro to Business, a course with 11 sections in Winter Quarter 2020, the teachers decided to use a textbook from McGraw-Hill, a publishing company that provides custom content for many of their textbooks.

Recently, McGraw-Hill allowed students to save money. Instead of buying a textbook with an access code, which Kneifel said could cost around $180, students now get access to the online course content and an ebook for a $62.50 materials fee. “That’s a win for us,” said Kneifel.

Savanna Eickerman
Chris Larson inside his office located in Grey Wolf Hall. He prefers textbooks, but understands that digital media (such as YouTube videos) might be more engaging.

Some students might miss the physical version, however. Kneifel said the publisher put a loose-leaf edition of the textbook in EvCC’s bookstore for roughly $30. “You’re still under $100 for the combination,” said Kneifel.

Sandra Lepper, who teaches in EvCC’s Art Department, said art textbooks like to include giant pictures, which can make their costs skyrocket. But she was able to find a 300 page textbook for free through Open Education Resources, which is a library of free, digital content. The PDF is now available on the course’s Canvas page for students to print or read.

Lepper thinks textbooks are useful and occasionally necessary. “I don’t think you could do English without books of some kind,” she said.

Chris Larson, a Graphic Arts teacher, agrees. While his demonstrations are good for teaching students how to use a program, design theory is easier to teach from a textbook. He also simply prefers a physical book. “I like sitting down and reading a book, and highlighting it, and trying to figure out what’s going to come out of this book,” he said.

Lepper has other ideas. She says textbook publishers should use the video store as an example. “Blockbuster’s dead,” she said, “cause the world changed.”

She’s not alone. Michael Nevins teaches math at EvCC. He is an advocate for allowing teachers more space to use Open Educational Resources and create their own resources. “I think instructors need to take back complete control of the resources they use in their classes,” he said.

Savanna Eickerman
Sandra Lepper in her office in Whitehorse Hall. She enjoys teaching in the Art Department, but believes many art textbooks are too expensive and intimidating.

But he admits that creating content takes a lot of time, even if it is low-cost. Textbooks often come packaged with online homework or videos. They also guide new teachers as they learn to organize a class, he said. 

A lot of teachers are also unwilling to use or create cheaper resources. Kneifel said, “A lot of that requires an incredible amount of work for the instructor to try to dig through.” … “I think that creates just a little too much digging for a lot of us.”

Still, Nevins believes textbooks have become overpriced. “With just $4,000, and a ton of my time, I am currently creating a set of resources that are a much more useful option,” he said. Nevins has already created his own content for his Math 096 class and is working with another instructor to do the same.

Nevins encourages students to speak up about self-publishing laws and to support their teachers. “The student senate could possibly set up a grant fund to support faculty in creating these textbooks,” he suggests.

In the end, students want affordable textbooks. “If the cost didn’t exceed $100, that’d be great,” said Sage Smith, an EvCC student.

Nevins believes students can help with that. “I think there needs to be a revolution of academic resources,” he said. “Students need to talk openly about the situation with textbook costs… As a group, they don’t know the influence they can have on this issue.”

Adrianna Vison-Montgomery
EvCC student, Gabe Birens studying from a textbook inside the Parks Student Union building.

Emily Larson
Infographic explaining the surmountable costs of textbooks and materials for just one quarter Math 096 class.