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Kent seeks lower textbook costs for college students

Between 2002 and 2013, the price of college textbooks rose 82 percent — more than twice the rate of inflation, according to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office. This staggering increase has further weighed down Minnesotans who are already dealing with one of the highest student loan debt burdens in the country.

Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, brought forward an innovative approach to help college students save money on textbooks. Her bill, which recently received a hearing in the Senate Higher Education Committee, would fund a pilot program at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) institutions to promote the adoption of open textbooks and other educational materials.

“By encouraging college and university professors to assign open educational resources, we can potentially save students thousands of dollars over the course of their college careers,” Kent said. “We are lucky to live in a time when open materials are readily available online. We know there is a place for traditional textbooks as we remember them, but what I am asking, is for professors to think outside the box and consider textbook options for a fraction of the cost, when applicable.”

The legislature has worked on several efforts to hold down costs at state higher education institutions, Kent said. Last year, the Senate passed a bill to help get college students to graduate more quickly and hold down debt. The bill also included accountability metrics to ensure both the University of Minnesota and MnSCU systems are actively working to lower administrative costs.

The bill, Senate File 3091, includes a place for an appropriation for the pilot program or for expansion and promotion of the open textbook library to faculty across the state, but no dollar figures yet.