After tuition and housing, textbooks are one of the biggest expenses for college students. Even back when I was in college, when tuition at the University of California was a “reasonable” $600 per semester, textbooks still took a serious chunk out of my budget. They were (and still are) large and expensive, especially for the sciences. For many classes, you are expected to buy several books. In some cases, the books are supplemental—not even necessary to succeed in the course.
The current trend toward electronic or digital books (ebooks) has reduced the burden on students’ backs and bookshelves, but not their pocketbooks. Reducing this burden ought to be simple: make the supplementary books optional. However, when Mike Tracy, a teacher at the Art Institute of California-Orange County, refused to make students buy an e-book they didn’t need, he may have jeopardized his job.
The Art Institute is part of a national chain of more than 50 for-profit schools, according to Good Education. Goldman Sachs has a 41% share in the company. Since ebooks are a significant part of the chain’s profit stream, compelling students to purchase as many as possible is in the company’s financial interest. School policy requires students to pay a $50-70 fee to download temporary copies of the books, regardless of whether they purchase a hard copy of the book. According to Tracy, some of these books are completely unnecessary and are required only to increase the school’s profits.
There is a Change.org petition demanding that the Art Institute of California-Orange County keep Tracy on staff.