Textbook Prices — The Perspective of Business Noncredit Instructors from the Downtown Campus

Gladys Ota, Noncredit Instructor

Students need textbooks to comprehend and complete required assignments. Unfortunately, many of our students cannot afford to purchase textbooks, or they choose not to purchase textbooks. Checking out textbooks via the library helps but does not solve the problem. Personally, I would like a class set of textbooks. If this requires some monitoring, it’s worth it to me. I would be willing to monitor textbooks and have a deposit system set up, collecting the cost of the textbooks, then returning the deposit when the textbooks are returned. I feel the major issue would be damaged returned books and how to assess the cost for damaged books.

Phillip Tong, Noncredit Instructor

Wouldn’t it be great if noncredit textbooks could be monitored by the bookstore? Based on my previous experience in several years teaching the Integrated Business Project class, allowing students to check out a book and return it at the end of the class is not always the best solution. This method will take away the teacher's teaching time in the class in order to manage the "check-out" and "check-in" process, and in chasing the students to return the book either through e-mails or phone calls at the end of semester. In some cases, I need to chase the students after two semesters. I think the best method would be to have a set of textbooks in the class and maintained by the instructor. Each student will checkout the textbook in the beginning of each session and return the text book at the end of that session. This process is currently being used in the Keyboarding class in the Chinatown campus for many years.

Irene Shaefer, Noncredit Instructor

I would recommend the following:
1. Purchase used books online, e.g. Amazon (there are many online brokers) Several of my students have done so. My text runs about $50 used versus $111 new.
2. Have students make a deposit for the full cost of the book and then return the textbook at the end of the course and have their deposit returned.

Robin Pugh, Noncredit Instructor

I have a class set of books for one of my MS Office (COMP 9889) right now and I can't imagine teaching it without the books. They have helped enormously and allowed me to vastly reduce the amount of photocopies I make. However, I don't think it is possible for me to do this for each of the classes I teach.

One thing I am interested in pursuing more is the idea of free, online textbooks. I think this could work well for our classes since most of them have access to computers during class, and many students can get access outside of class. With all the knowledge and expertise we have, I can envision a team of instructors from CCSF building an online resource that we can all use, as well as our students. It could even benefit the global community far beyond us.....

Rudy Padilla, Noncredit Instructor and Coordinator

Access to textbooks impacts student retention and the attrition rate in noncredit business technology courses. Students are required to have textbooks in most noncredit classes, but many students choose not to buy them. Reasons for not obtaining probably one of the most important tools vary but mostly it comes down to price.

In noncredit business technology we have 15hr, 30hr, 45hr, 90hr, and 180hr classes. It is not unusual for a student to take a combination of 8 classes in one semester. The cost of textbooks builds up quickly as shorter classes turn over much faster than full semester credit classes and book prices overwhelm the psyche of the student. Instructors and staff can lecture and scold the student on the fact that noncredit courses are tuition free and that they should be purchasing the books, but what many of us at the institution forget is that many students are on fixed incomes, with a variety of needs, and how they budget their money affects their very survival.

Many students give up on trying to secure a textbook and take on the tuition-free course hoping to attain knowledge and skills without the textbook. It's much easier and cheaper to repeat a class that is tuition free, than to fund a textbook. It is a cyclical process whereby students repeat the course to assimilate knowledge and skills.

There are noncredit instructors who do not order books out of frustration and lack of institutional support; many are able to produce their own lessons and materials; some rely on end-of-chapter labs, drills, and skill-building exercises in a computer textbook (which of course should not be a substitution for the full chapter needed for review). It is important to note that full-time and part-time noncredit instructors have more instructional hours than credit instructors. Instructors in business noncredit also must prep classes, grade, maintain attendance sheets, complete surveys, and attend to learning outcomes.

Many students take noncredit business technology courses because they need jobs now and they want to better compete in the labor market. Many are taking classes because they are trying to survive in today’s difficult economy, and some are simply not making it. It is hard to hear students say that they need to drop the class because they need to take on another job. They are in noncredit because they do not need the credit and are not interested in transferring to a four-year university. My goal is to continuously plant the seed of advanced studies and hope to capture as many to send them off to credit, but realistically my goal is also to help students with the tools necessary to simply get through life. We are in a somewhat Catch-22 situation where we as instructors are working to help students to acquire new tools, yet not availing them of one of the most important tools in the classroom, the textbook. I have never been hungry, homeless, or poor. Who am I to tell students that the classes are free and that they should be able to afford these tools? I think we should be framing or discussing this issue in different terms.

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