Yesterday evening, Engineering Student Council met for the first live-streamed meeting of the semester. Punctuated as it was with small reminders or instructions on correct ways to engage in the meeting, the majority of the session dealt with a proposal originating in Columbia College Student Council and broached by VP for Campus Services Scott Wright in his standing meeting with ESC President Richa Gode.
Rising Tuition, Rising Tempers
President Gode met recently with Scott Wright, who proposed adding $600 to semesterly tuition in order to provide textbooks, lab fees, and any other required purchases (e.g. webassign) to students for “free.” Wright supposedly calculated this number from the average costs required to fully purchase all required and recommended textbooks for a student. The average comes out to somewhere between $600 and $1000, and so Columbia would be able to provide textbooks to all students through institutional pathways.
Now there are clearly many downsides to such a proposal, which ESC ruthlessly picked apart. Representative after representative, from seniors to newly inducted freshmen, commented that they have never spent anywhere near $600 on textbooks and lab fees, preferring to use rentals, library books, or, most commonly, free pdfs. The $600 semesterly fee would just add a large increase to tuition for everyone, regardless of whether they pay full price for textbooks and supplementary materials or not. This is without mentioning the burden placed upon students whose tuition is not sufficiently covered by financial aid already.
These textbooks would not even be owned by the students. That is, the textbooks would most likely be returned to Columbia and then handed to the next class. This not only defeats the purpose of buying every textbook for full price—as opposed to renting—but it prevents students from utilizing older textbooks as reference materials. As one member stated, returning the textbooks for which you paid $600 is just “the university making a profit.” Another member brought up the fact that many professors write their own textbooks, with the implication being that professors will be making a profit off of the university buying their books each year for full price instead of allowing students to gather materials at their own cost.
The consensus, though qualified by the freshmen members of the council, was that such a fee might be useful—if lowered—for freshmen students who undergo the Core and who may not have the connections yet to attain free academic resources. This would jive more with the CC half of the proposal, with CC students receiving their LitHum textbooks, for example, from the university as paid through their tuition. Some freshmen members commented, however, that they do not pay full price for their textbooks and do not know anybody who does so. The consensus remained that the tuition hike may be worthwhile for some students, if lowered.
Miscellany and Updates
textbooks via Flickr