Open-source material a better option for DSU

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Dixie State University could lower the amount of students who graduate in debt by replacing textbooks with open-source material, which is material available free online, and supplying students with the class materials they need.

DSU has some of the lowest tuition and fees in the state, but the total cost of attendance is still around $17,000, with over $1,000 going toward textbooks and class materials.

According to the College Board non-profit organization, the average student spends $1,298 an academic year on books and class supplies. If you add this price to housing, tuition, fees, food and transportation, students paying for their own education often can’t afford the costs and have to take out loans.

Lucas Batin, a freshman biology major from St. George, is a prime example.

“Luckily, I get my brother’s old textbooks,” Batin said. “If I didn’t get his books, I would spend
$500-600 a semester on books alone.”

Batin said science classes (especially the ones with fees) often have expensive books as well as supplies like goggles and lab coats students have to purchase on their own. He had to take out student loans this semester to help cover the cost of his schooling.

David Burr, a DSU physical science adviser, said the average class fee for a physical science lab class usually ranges from $60-100. These fees cover everything from lab equipment to consumable materials for experiments that are replaced on a regular basis. Yet, students are still asked to buy lab coats, goggles, and other class supplies because of the science department’s small budget.

According to The Project on Student Debt by ticas.org, the average debt of graduates at DSU in 2015 was $16,302, with 86 percent of graduates in debt. I have had to take out loans myself, even with several scholarships, just because the cost of schooling is so great.

A group of colleges in Virginia and Maryland are replacing textbooks with open-source material, and these changes could save students as much as $1,300 a year. Achieving the Dream, an education advocacy group based in Silver Spring, Maryland, is supplying the colleges with grants to help fund the program. If we adopted a similar program at DSU, first-generation, low-income and minority students would no longer face financial barriers that keep them from paying for school out of their own pockets.

I work full-time over the summer, but when school comes, all of my money is gone the day I pay for tuition and books. If DSU replaced textbooks with open-source material and provided more class supplies, students like me could save money. Sure, doing this would only save students several thousand dollars a year, but that amount may prevent them from taking out loans.