Beginning next academic year, professors can’t require students to buy textbooks.
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- Students spend approximately $340 a year, on average, on course materials, including books.
- Western Texas A&M University plans to eliminate that expense for students starting fall 2024.
- Professors will be encouraged to instead use public domain materials.
- Some professors have voiced opposition to this upcoming change.
Students at Western Texas A&M University (WT) will have one less expense to budget for next academic year.
The university in Canyon, Texas, announced that no student will be required to purchase a textbook starting in the fall 2024 semester. WT President Walter Wendler stated that with the emergence of more open-source materials, professors and other faculty should begin preparing to eliminate the need for textbooks from their courses.
“Making education affordable is our responsibility,” Wendler said in a statement. “We want to help lower the cost of higher education for students and families and continue to make WT the university of choice for students across the region, the state, the nation, and the world.”
College students spend roughly $340 yearly on course materials, including books.
WT says it enrolls approximately 9,000 students. If this initiative succeeds, students could save a combined $3 million annually.
The university’s plans don’t eliminate the need for all additional course materials, however.
WT added that professional manuals — such as those used in nursing, engineering, or writing — are considered reference books, not textbooks. That means select courses may still require students to purchase these manuals.
Some professors may feel the need to still assign textbooks. If a course does require a textbook, WT stated that the university will cover the cost of the book. WT will use funds from a recent $125 million fundraising campaign to cover these expenses.
Filiberto Avila, WT’s student body president, celebrated the announcement.
“We believe students will benefit greatly from saving hundreds and even thousands of dollars,” Avila said.
Some faculty, however, were less enthused.
Darrell Lovell, a political science professor at WT, wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that Open Educational Resources (OER) are only available for some courses. Even when open-source materials are available for a class, they can be “hit or miss,” he said.
“Books serve an important purpose, especially for underprepared students (like I was) as they provide structure [and] are vetted [and] written to their level,” Lovell wrote, “[versus] journal articles written for expert peer review.”
Still, WT will encourage professors to assign OER materials beginning next academic year. Additionally, faculty will be “encouraged to use [artificial intelligence] and other information technology to develop course materials,” the university stated.