The program also aims to reduce the overall cost of textbooks for undergrads, according to interim provost Jennifer Airey.
In light of a new proposal revealed to the student body, I sat down with Dr. Jennifer Airey, the interim provost of TU, and asked a few clarifying questions about the new initiative to purchase all texts for students.
Initially spotted at the bottom of a TU Facebook post, whispers of what the new book purchasing program would actually look like abounded. Several variations of costs, which texts would be purchased, whether they will be physical or digital and other details seemed to be contradictory among the information sources.
The new program, as explained by Dr. Airey, is as follows:
The University of Tulsa will take on the cost of purchasing required texts for the classes taken by incoming freshmen and other first year students (i.e. transfer students). This aspect of the program would feature no cost to the students; the university will take on those costs, utilizing their ability to buy in bulk to reduce the overall cost while providing texts for students that otherwise would have to wait several weeks into the semester to find them. The primary goal of this focuses on providing first generation students or those without the necessary financials to go ahead and purchase hundreds of dollars’ worth of books in the first week.
Digital editions will be prioritized, but if a digital edition cannot be found, a physical copy will be loaned out to the student. If one does not particularly like the idea of all digital editions, they can opt out of the program in a way yet to be revealed. Likewise, professors will have some control over what texts will be prioritized as digital or physical copies, though a system to prevent professors from purchasing a multitude of texts because students will not directly see that cost is also in development.
Over the course of four years, all of the student body will have matriculated under this new program, and the university will continue to absorb that cost. The rather obvious rebuttal to that is to blame any future raising of tuition on the existence of this program, but the hope is that the necessary funds will be reallocated from the current tuition costs.
One option still lying on the table is the inclusion of the current student body into this plan. As it stands right now, only next academic year’s freshmen, transfer students and further years’ cohorts will see the fruits of this resolution. However, there has been discussion about rolling out the program as it stands to the entire undergraduate faction of the university.
Instead of TU covering the cost of all texts, non-freshmen or non-first year students would have to pay a fee per credit hour to receive these texts. Yet the goal remains clear: reduce the average cost of books purchased by students for each semester. Graduate students are exempt from this program; the book purchasing will only apply to undergrads.
Pros of this program:
Each student will be equipped with the required books as soon as the semester starts with a common, identical edition of each text. While this may not matter as much in STEM-oriented classes, Arts and Sciences students that spend time negotiating between book editions, differing pagination and other idiosyncrasies in their texts will no longer have to experience those issues.
Students that could not afford to purchase texts will now be able to acquire these works under their common tuition payments.
Professors will have more liberty in purchasing different texts, especially with the rising costs of textbooks driving some departments to use older, more rare editions due to their continued use and low valuation.
Cons of this program:
Digital editions. It’s an unfortunate reality that purchasing pdfs will always be cheaper than physical editions, but it should still be mentioned.
Any tuition raise in the coming years will probably be blamed on this program.
The issue of course packs seems to exist somewhere in the gray area of this resolution. It’s unclear whether or not course packs will be included under the new rules and restrictions.