MCC slashes textbook costs for students
An Intro to Business book costs $121, but McHenry County College students pay zero for it this fall semester thanks to the college's textbook reduction program.
In response to the soaring cost of textbooks, MCC faculty, staff and administrators have come up with plans to drastically lower or eliminate textbooks and replace them with open educational resources and other materials for select classes.
The collegewide effort to continue providing high-quality instruction while saving students money from the burdensome cost of textbooks began in 2016 with the creation of the Textbook Ad Hoc Committee, which is co-chaired by MCC President Clint Gabbard and Julie Freelove, business instructor.
The Textbook Ad Hoc Committee has conducted three Textbook Reduction Camps, where 44 full-time and adjunct faculty have collaborated to reduce costs in more than 30 course projects.
"These textbook cost reductions have resulted in over $1 million in annual savings to MCC students in a variety of subject areas, including business, horticulture, fitness, geology and speech," Gabbard said.
"Our goal is to drastically reduce, if not eliminate, textbooks," said Sherry Ridge, business instructor, who was instrumental in bringing four business textbooks to a cost of zero, while still providing sources that are accurate and timely.
"No student in Intro to Business (BUS 150) will pay for a textbook, which means the 300 students enrolled in that class will save a combined annual savings of $30,000. The savings is similar for other business classes.
Since participating in all three Textbook Cost Reduction Camps on MCC's campus since May 2017 to explore economical textbook options, Ridge said she found that many of the internet resources include flexible copyright licenses, such as Creative Commons, which allow copying, printing and adapting at no cost.
"Students can load the OER course content on their computers, jump drives, tablets or phones," Ridge said. "It's exciting. I love it when students realize that they don't have to pay for a textbook."
In addition, Ridge said she created a repository for some of her business classes that she and other instructors can access for discussions, quizzes and PowerPoints to choose from for their classes.
Beginning this fall, students who take Introduction to Speech (SPE 151) class -- required or recommended for most MCC degrees -- will have no textbook cost, as two instructors are piloting a switch from the previous textbook listed at $135 to a free, online textbook, "Public Speaking: The Virtual Text."
Jay Geller, speech instructor and department chair, said he hopes to expand that to all of the SPE 151 sections by spring semester, which will result in an approximate cost-reduction of $162,000 annually for more than 1,200 students.
While many MCC faculty have been exploring alternatives to using textbooks, English instructor Anne Humphrey has been a pioneer in the effort. She has been teaching without a textbook in her Composition classes and her learning community (Twofer) classes for more than 10 years.
"I am the first teacher I know of in Illinois to go bookless," Humphrey said. "I've also run one literature class bookless."
This fall, Humphrey will teach a bookless developmental English section for the first time.
In the 10 years that Humphrey has taught bookless classes, she estimates that for her 2,000 students in the 10 sections of classes who would have spent at least $40 on a textbook have saved at least $80,000.
"What is far more important than the savings is that going with no textbook improves the quality of the materials and the learning," Humphrey said. "Students learn where to get quality sources from the internet and how to judge quality, and those sources are more current, varied, and authentic (original, not secondary)."
"It was nice to not have a textbook for Composition class," said Jessica Swanson, who took Humphrey's Composition II class last spring. "Often times, I find that for certain classes, textbooks are not worth the money spent because some teachers will only reference the book a few times during the semester.
"Information today is constantly changing, and with bookless classes, teachers can provide the most up-to-date information to students through other materials," Swanson said.
Marketing student Nery Duran said not having to pay $115 for a Principles of Marketing class last spring was a pleasant surprise.
"It was great not having to pay for a textbook because it helped me save money and I'm able to put that money into my college savings for when I transfer to a four-year university next fall," she said.