Illinois Rep. introduces bill to reduce textbook costs

26 Apr

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL,11) wants to help make higher education more affordable and accessible for students by reducing college textbook costs.

“Skyrocketing textbook costs, along with the high costs of tuition, room and board, create a financial barrier that has become increasingly difficult for students to overcome,” Foster said in a news release. “By making high quality educational materials freely accessible to the general public, students would save money on textbooks.” 

The open source materials would be made available for free on a website, where they could be downloaded and shared by the public.

The congressman on Tuesday introduced a bill, the Learning Opportunities With Creation of Open Source Textbooks (Low Cost) Act, H.R. 4455, with the goal of providing more opportunities for students to downloaded free open-source educational content to their computers. Under the measure, open-source textbooks covering the subjects of physics, chemistry and calculus would be created as part of a pilot program at the National Science Foundation (NSF). The legislation seeks to set up a “Federal Open Source Material Website” where the free educational materials would be made available for download. According to a statement from the congressman’s office, the Low Cost Act would also “require federal agencies that spend a significant amount of money on scientific education and outreach to use some of those funds collaborating with NSF.”

Foster noted that during the 2013-2014 school year, students spent an average of $1,207 to $1,270 on college books and supplies, according to a College Board estimate. Foster said the availability of free textbooks could reduce the amount of debt accumulated from four years of college by as much as $5,000.

The LOW COST Act is part of a larger initiative launched by Foster called Project Growth. Aimed at job creation and economic development in his district, it focuses on the issues of education, transportation, manufacturing and strengthening the middle class, in order to encourage further growth.  

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