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New study reveals SF State students forced to choose between books and food

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Students walk around campus near the Cesar Chavez Student Center at San Francisco State University. (Steven Ho/Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco State University students are struggling to afford textbooks and basic needs, according to a recent study conducted by California State University.

Seventy-nine percent of students say they are stressed about book costs and one in three are forced to decide between course materials and food, according to the study, which was released earlier this month at a conference in Sacramento.

It isn’t news that textbooks are expensive but those costs, combined with a food and a housing scarcity for students in The City, have led nearly a quarter of the university’s students to consider dropping out, the new study shows.

Across the state, 66 percent of CSU students are unable to afford textbooks, resulting in 20 percent of them failing their courses all together. One of the most widely used Economics 101 textbooks in the CSU system, for example, costs $255.

An SFSU student’s average cost for books and materials exceeds the national average by $700 per year, totaling $1,900, according to the SFSU website.

When professors put the required materials in a course syllabus, students who receive financial aid can use those funds to help pay for their books and other material costs, according to Jeff Jacoby, SFSU Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts Professor.

Just this spring, the Affordable Instructional Materials initiative gave students at the university the option of searching for and choosing classes that have no course materials fees, using only online articles and e-book sources that are free of charge for the entire semester.

Jacoby said he actually prefers giving his students online articles to read because it gives them different perspectives instead of just that of a textbook author.

The initiative set out to help students save money on class supplies, and since its implementation it has made a major difference for students at some CSU campuses.

“Over the past five years, the Affordable Instructional Materials program has used approximately $150,000 in state funds to support faculty in changing their instructional materials adoptions to save students approximately $4,500,000 in textbook costs,” Brian Beatty, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Operations at SFSU, said in a statement.

However SFSU didn’t see such strong results. While just next door, CSU Fresno students saved a total of more than $300,000 on textbooks alone last year, SFSU students came in at just under $50,000 in savings.

The university is continuing its efforts to make the learning environment more equitable and affordable for all of its students.

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