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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For vulnerable students, the pandemic has worsened the problem of textbook access, according to a report released by Student Public Interest Research Groups.

The problem: With remote schooling, it's much harder to borrow someone's textbook or get a used book for cheap, forcing students to pay for access codes just to do their homework.

By the numbers: A survey of more than 5,000 students at 82 colleges and universities reveals COVID's devastating effects on students’ ability to fully participate in class.

  • 65% of students reported skipping a textbook purchase this fall, even though 90%were worried it would impact their grades.
  • 79% of students said COVID impacted their ability to meet basic needs. Those who lost jobs were significantly more likely to skip buying textbooks or access codes.

Zoom in: Eckerd College freshman Sanaa Ali told Axios she had to go without all her books for the better part of her first semester. And even after she paid for the access code to her calculus class, she lost access as soon as exams were over. So, to keep learning, she had to buy another book.

  • "Higher education costs are already so high without the added burden of access codes that expire after just one term," she said.

The big picture: Dan Xie, the St. Petersburg-based political director of Student PIRGs, said publishers are taking advantage of vulnerable students during the pandemic — but argues universities and state legislators can stop it.

  • Xie points to open textbook programs, already incentivized in California and Massachusetts, where professors can choose a free, peer-reviewed textbook online.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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Go deeper

Feb 23, 2021 - Health

Wealthy Californians reportedly exploit COVID vaccine program

The Lincoln Park Covid-19 vaccination site on February 19 in Los Angeles. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

California residents in affluent communities are taking up COVID-19 vaccination appointments meant for underserved communities of color, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

Why it matters: Although Gov. Gavin Newsom has frequently stressed the importance of establishing equity in the state’s vaccine rollout, affluent white and Asian-American Californians are still receiving the vaccine at higher rates than Black and Latino residents in underserved areas, per the Times.

Feb 23, 2021 - Health

Pfizer and Moderna expect to double vaccine shipments by spring

UCHealth pharmacist Marissa Kim prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 20 in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Moderna and Pfizer plan to significantly boost vaccine shipments to the U.S. government by this spring, according to written testimony from company executives released Tuesday ahead of a House committee hearing on vaccines.

Where it stands: Pfizer expects to increase its weekly vaccine delivery from 4-5 million doses at the start of February to more than 13 million doses by mid-March, said John Young, Pfizer's chief business officer.