By HARRIET RAMOS
As the Dallas County Community College District moves to bundle the cost of textbooks with tuition in the fall through a program known as IncludED, questions remain about how to make it equitable for everyone.
On Feb. 3, representatives from the textbook supplier Follett met with Eastfield faculty and staff to give updates about IncludED and address their concerns. Follett is looking at what textbooks or materials teachers have requested over the past two years to determine what can be covered by IncludED.
Art professors David Wilburn and Eric Eley said they have been sending their students to Asel Art Supply or Amazon to purchase their art kits because they are more cost effective than Follett.
Because they don’t have a history of ordering from Follett, the art professors are concerned IncludED will not pay for these materials and students will have to pay for them out of pocket.
“I assume at some point this is going to be marketed to the students … and that students throughout the district will be told something like ‘everything is included,” Wilburn said. “Is that kit included for no additional fee or is my class going to be reduced to an asterisk that says, ‘Not these classes’? And if that’s the case, then what happens to enrollment?”
Audra Barrett, vice president for instruction at Cedar Valley College and a speaker at the IncludED meeting, said they will work with the art departments throughout the district to make sure essential materials fit under the program.
She said professors in other departments have materials that cost less, so the overall cost should balance out.
“Lowering price points down will help those art teachers who have a $250 art kit come into … the IncludED package,” Barrett said. “It’s looking at things as a whole, not just as a single unit.”
In an interview that took place two weeks after the meeting, Eley said discussions with Follett and the district are ongoing, but it is still unclear whether IncludED will cover the cost of the art supply kits.
“The district as a whole didn’t anticipate as well as they could have for those of us who are … lecture/labs …where it’s not as easy as a textbook and a notebook,” he said.
Another issue that professors are concerned about is the switch to electronic textbooks that InlcudED will necessitate.
“I’ve brought this up to my current students to see how they feel about it and I’ve had students tell me they hate e-texts,” Philosophy professor Kristina Hunsinger said. “I am concerned about students that don’t have devices that can easily read an e-text.”
Last fall Chancellor Joe May said the district will make digital readers available for students.
There was no mention of that at the meeting, but the Follett representatives said there will be print upgrades available for an additional cost, probably $25 to $30.
While Follett maintains the goal of IncludED is to help students financially by easing the burden of having to pay for textbooks on top of tuition, not all students feel like they need that intervention.
Frank Escobar, an organic chemistry student, said he always looks for low-cost books to rent, so the program won’t benefit him.
“I feel like I might have been able to find it cheaper, but either way it’s still a good thing for most of the students around here as a whole,” he said.
In spite of the questions Eley has about IncludED, he said he is trying to maintain a positive outlook.
“I think it’s a great idea on paper,” he said. “If we can make it work it could help students quite a bit.”