We would be delighted if a wave of a magic wand would mean every required textbook were open-licensed, flexible for instructors, and affordable for students. Unfortunately, it will take time before this happens. In the meantime there are some options to improve textbook affordability immediately even for classes with expensive required textbooks.
San Francisco City College student association decided that the students needed assistance with textbook costs far more than they needed additional recreation equipment or social events. So the association purchased a number of expensive textbooks and offered them for semester-long loans.
Foothill College Bookstore manager Romy Paule took a risk, invested in textbooks, and rented them to students. After a few terms, the investment was recouped.
Instructors can suggest that students visit the SlugBooks site where students can compare textbooks from several sources. Searching can be done by state/school/class or by textbook title or ISBN number. The site includes some open textbooks.
Revamping assignments to refer to topics rather than specific pages and problem numbers will allow students to use older versions of the textbook at substantial savings.
Suggesting that students form small study groups and purchase one textbook to share can mean not only cost savings but peer pressure to improve time management and study skills.
Administrators and instructors can contact the college foundation to see if corporate or foundation grants can be used to purchase more reserve copies of textbooks for the college library.
Comment below if you have additional suggestions for quickly improving textbook affordability.