The GUSA Senate is creating a subcommittee for book affordability and accessibility to assist students with accessing textbooks. The project seeks to lower the barrier low and middle-income students face each semester when purchasing textbooks and class materials.

The subcommittee, led by Sen. Kariel Bennett (COL ’23), focuses on three initiatives: a scholarship fund, book-cap, and a university-wide book drive.

The scholarship will provide grants to qualifying students to buy textbooks. Eligibility for the fund will only be determined by a student’s expected family contribution (EFC).

GUSA expects the fund to be ready for the fall 2021 semester, with plans for it to become a recurring program. GUSA representatives are currently coordinating the initiative’s timeline and implementation with professors.

The subcommittee also seeks to establish a department-based book-cap. Under the proposal, each department in all four schools would have an individualized cost limit on how much a professor can require students to spend on materials. A course’s status as an elective or core class may also affect the book cap. Since the university cannot enforce this outline, GUSA hopes it will act as a guide for both professors and students to refer to.

The third facet of this initiative, the university-wide book drive, aims to create a common exchange of free or discounted books. The drive will also provide a list of sites and sources for free PDFs of books, book-rental sites, and cheaper alternatives than the university bookstore. The book drive is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.

While the committee’s goal is to relieve the burden of textbook costs for middle and lower-income students, the impacts of the program will benefit the entire student body. “Though this is an affordability issue, no student should have to spend hundreds of dollars on books every semester.” Bennett wrote said in an email to the Voice. “Students deserve to have an exceptional education that’s also cost-effective.”

Currently, the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access (CMEA) is the only outlet that assists low and middle-income students with book accessibility. The CMEA purchases books on the behalf of students through the Book Loan Scholarship, which are then returned and added to the Book Co-Op Library, free for others to borrow. Though participating students benefit from the CMEA program, the subcommittee seeks to address its shortcomings, including its dependence on student donations and the loan application process.

The subcommittee will transition into a part of the GUSA executive branch and is encouraging students to join efforts and increase the group’s fiscal diversity.

The university estimates $600 for the cost of books, factoring this figure in financial aid awards and total cost of attendance, yet many students still find them difficult to afford. Low and middle-income students often must choose between paying for necessities and tuition over textbooks and class materials, according to Bennett.

“I started this subcommittee because no student should struggle in classes because they can’t afford a book, especially when the university has the funds to make students’ lives easier,” Bennett explained. “A university can only embody cura personalis when they do everything to ensure the student has the proper resources to excel.”

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