Skip to content

Students opting out of college textbooks

January 30, 2014

And a new survey shows that students are responding with a cost-cutting measure that could seriously hurt their grades: They’re leaving the costly textbooks on the shelf. Two-thirds of college students surveyed said that they hadn’t bought a required textbook at least once because it was too expensive, according to a national report released Monday by the Student Public Interest Research Groups, a coalition of statewide student organizations.

Some professors use open-source material for their courses, but others select books that are regularly updated, making used copies hard to come by. College bookstores commonly offer rentals, but those prices can be steep: It costs $88.92 to rent a used physics textbook from the UC Berkeley campus bookstore and $185 to buy it new.

The consumer group ConnPIRG said 170 students in Connecticut participated in a nationwide survey that spoke with students from more than 150 universities. Out of 2,039, 65 percent of students said that they had decided against buying textbooks because it was too expensive. The survey also found that nearly all of the students who had foregone purchasing a textbook were concerned that doing so would hurt their grade in a course. Roughly half of those surveyed said that the cost of the books impacted how many and which classes they took each semester. The group said it shows that students are ready for an alternative means, like open source textbooks. Open textbooks with an open copyright license that are made available online at little to no cost.

“Free, open and online textbooks are a great resource for students and professors” says Dr. Jonathan Tomkin, a Research Associate Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  “For many college subjects there is no need to compel students to buy expensive textbooks when excellent open resources are available.” Open textbooks can save students on average $100 per class.

A larger initiative at Rice University in Texas — OpenStax College — reported last spring it had saved 40,000 students $3.7 million, and that 300 institutions had signed up for its free, peer-reviewed materials for the 2013-14 year.

A Statistics I textbook, which typically costs $90 used and $150 new, would be free for the 120,000 California students who take the course each semester if their professors used the OpenStax version available now, said Dean Florez, president and CEO of the 20 Million Minds Foundation, which has underwritten some of the new OpenStax courses.


From → Textbook News

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: