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Affordable Course Materials: Students Working for Change

Students: Do the costs of your textbooks and other required course materials concern you? Northeastern's Student Government Association (SGA) and the national Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) are both actively engaged on the issue of textbook affordability.


"Textbooks Too Expensive?" Student PIRGs poster

The Make Textbooks Affordable Campaign is a coalition of Student PIRGs and Student Government Associations who are working to make college more affordable. The campaign seeks to educate students, faculty, and universities about the reality of the textbook publishing market, and supports state legislation and federal reporting focused on the affect of high textbook cost on student life.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act, which was passed by Congress in 2008 and went into law July 1, 2010, requires that publishers now provide "unbundled" editions of textbooks for sale (ie., just the textbook without any additional materials like CDs that drive up prices). Publishers must also disclose all pricing information when they market their textbooks to professors. See the Student PIRGs website for more information.




NU SGA logo

The NU Student Government Association's Academic Affairs Committee spearheaded an initiative in the Fall 2017 semester to increase awareness among faculty of the financial burden placed on students by the usage of online homework grading platforms. They estimate that these systems add $50-$100 per course in which they are required, and unlike textbook purchase, it's impossible to find cheaper alternatives or opt out of purchase—in order to submit homework for grading, students must have purchased access to the platform.

SGA representatives met with members of the Faculty Senate and other faculty members during the fall, with the goal of adding questions to the TRACE course evaluations about value of both assigned readings and the supplemental platforms. The SGA hopes that faculty will gain a greater understanding of their students' opinions of these resources and take them into consideration when planning future offerings of the course. This initiative was successful, and the questions were added to TRACE evaluations for Fall 2017 courses.