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The Undergraduate Council’s Education Committee hopes to combat high textbook costs this semester through several new student and faculty initiatives.
According to the Education Committee’s Chair, Scott Ely ’18, the committee plans to work with professors to reduce costs for courses that require expensive textbooks. They also hope to increase the supply of course materials available in libraries.
Committee Vice Chair Evan M. Bonsall ’19 said the committee, in its first meeting of the academic year last week, discussed the recent introduction of mandatory $132 textbooks in Economics 10: “Principles of Economics” as a recent case in which expensive course materials have posed a financial burden to students.
Bonsall said that, although the committee is now addressing expensive textbooks by speaking with faculty members who teach courses with high costs, students also need more sustainable solutions to keep course materials affordable. To that end, they plan to start a student-run book exchange to provide easier access to used books.
Harvard students can currently use the Facebook group “Free & For Sale” or websites such as Amazon.com to buy used or cheaper versions of course materials, but affordable prices are not always guaranteed.
The problem of high textbook costs is not a new one. For the 2014-215 academic year, the average cost on a student for a year of books was estimated at $1,217, according to the Financial Aid office.
In addition to textbook costs, the education committee is also working on other initiatives this semester to improve students’ classroom experiences.
The committee hopes to begin a conversation about sexual assault and mental health in the classroom, according to Ely.
“Two other things we are working on is how do issues like sexual assault and mental health relate to the classroom,” Ely said. “Everything students are experiencing in their everyday lives is going to correlate to what goes on in the academic setting.”
Ely also said the Committee hopes to continue providing mentorship and resources for undergraduates who are first-generation or are from under-resourced high schools.
—Staff writer Ashley Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ashleyjiinkim.
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