What a legislator told MCTC students about textbook costs, credit transfers

Faculty, it's kinda on you. (MPR Photo / Alex Friedrich)

At a listening session yesterday at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, political-science sophomore Nate Krautz asked Sen. Terri Bonoff what legislators have done to curb the escalating cost of textbooks.

The Minnetonka DFLer who chairs the Higher Education Committee replied that lawmakers did address the problem last session -- and wanted to address it even more:

"But your faculty, and the faculty at all of our institutions, have a lot of leeway with regard to that. It's our belief as a committee that there could be a lot more open-source textbooks used. ... While we didn't mandate a move in that direction, we put it as one of the performance metrics. ..."

She said another problem -- difficulty in transferring credits (even among MnSCU schools) -- is related to the textbook problem:

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(MPR Photo / Alex Friedrich)

"Because the faculty has so much control -- and faculty, this is not [meant] to be said disrespectfully, rather just to point to the facts -- faculty has so much control around what their syllabus is and what's acceptable in terms of accepting transfer credits. And because of that, they also then, of course, decide which textbooks [to use in class] and so there isn't much universal sameness between classes, universities, colleges. And so the costs are higher that way.

So who would get faculty to do this?

"I would actually challenge the leadership of our academic institutions to take this on as well. We can point to a direction, but it's going to take systemic change from your leadership around standardization and the value of standardization to you, the student."

As Bonoff hinted, though, she could encounter a lot of resistance to the standardization of textbook use.