Staff Editorial: Open SUNY Textbook Program indicates concern for rising cost of education

State University of New York libraries are collaborating with SUNY faculty to develop free textbooks under the Open SUNY Textbook Program. According to a Geneseo press release, the program will produce 15 free online textbooks this year with the intent to help reduce the cost of higher education for students. SUNY is taking a step in the right direction by recognizing the pressing need to lower college expenses.

According to Carey Hatch, associate provost for academic technologies and information service for SUNY, if the program can create textbooks that save one out of every 10 students an average of $30, the total savings across the SUNY system will average over $1.3 million. While this may be somewhat of an overestimation, the state's efforts to lower the financial bar for academic resources for students is commendable.

Though textbooks are often a significant purchase on top of already high tuition and cost of living expenses, they contain supplemental information necessary for learning, both in and out of the classroom. 

While that information is invaluable, in a digital age it is apparent that textbooks will have to adapt to an increasingly paperless industry. This crucial information for class may be presented in a variety of forms – charging $200 for a textbook is antiquated. That SUNY is acknowledging high prices and taking steps to reduce them shows a concern for the rising cost of higher education and an effort to adapt to a changing market. 

SUNY’s efforts will ideally lead to further discourse on the financial strain that college can put on students. For many, the debt accrued by attending school acts as a deterrent for students who would otherwise benefit from a college education. Tuition, cost of living and textbooks all contribute to the looming student debt bubble, one that threatens to burst at any moment.

It is evident from SUNY’s recognition of the problem posed by exorbitant textbook prices that the conversation is beginning to shift to a more all-encompassing one that aims to make higher education more accessible for college students of all ages and backgrounds. And with new, innovative approaches to learning like Geneseo’s first massive open online course with over 100 students enrolled and multiple professors leading course discussion, we’re seeing new approaches to learning that redefine what it means to learn in a college setting.

With associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees all in higher demand from industries across the country, this new offering is conducive to increasing enrollment in college institutions that will ultimately ensure that higher education is the level playing field we expect it to be.