Each year, students at four-year institutions pay an average of more than $1,200 on textbooks they may not even use. A program at UF is lowering this cost — and unnecessary purchases — one orange apple badge at a time.
Affordable UF, an initiative that was piloted this Summer and will officially be launched this Fall, shows students which courses require materials that cost $20 or less per credit hour. Classes that meet this requirement get an orange-colored apple badge on their textbook requirement page.

The cost of textbooks rose by 88 percent between 2006 and 2016, said Alexandra Bitton-Bailey, academic innovation specialist for the Office of Faculty Development & Teaching Excellence at UF. During this time, the price of a gallon of milk only increased by 9.7 percent.

“We want to see students succeed,” Bitton-Bailey said, “and it’s really hard to succeed if you can’t buy your textbook.”

This initiative was inspired by the State University System of Florida’s plan to make courses more accessible through affordability, said John Jordi, learning and organizational specialist at UF.

Reducing the cost of textbooks is more feasible than reducing the cost of tuition, but both can be financial hurdles for students.

“Cost is really one of the number one barriers for students completing their degree on time,” Jordi said.

Some courses require students to purchase expensive materials they may not even use, Bitton-Bailey said. Affordable UF encourages faculty to re-evaluate the need for some of these course materials.

Faculty members can lower the costs of their required course materials by creating their own textbooks, using open-access resources or putting materials in online course reserves, Bitton-Bailey said.

“That’s a huge time investment, and it changes your course,” Bitton-Bailey said. “So we wanted to recognize the faculty who are are pushing forth this effort.”

UF also works with publishers to reduce textbook costs by allowing electronic access for students.
The application for courses to receive the Affordable UF badge requires faculty members to fill out a textbook adoption form and answer a few questions about the affordability of the materials they require, Bitton-Bailey said.

The adoption form, which lists the materials faculty members expect students to purchase for the course, is already a requirement faculty have to complete every semester.

The Affordable UF system has been refined since its pilot, Bitton-Bailey said. The applicants are being audited to ensure books are actually affordable. More than 600 courses qualified for the badge over the Summer, and this number is expected to be higher in the Fall.

“So many students at UF are struggling to pay for college, whether it be their tuition or their books and class fees,” said 21-year-old political science and statistics major Jamie Lee. “It’s good that students can find a cheaper option that better fits their needs, and it’s important that we make that a priority for our students.”

For more information, visit teach.ufl.edu/affordable-uf/.