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Impact of Textbook Costs on College Students


OER_Covering_the_CostLast week, Student PIRGS released, Covering the Cost: Why We Can No Longer Afford to Ignore High Textbook Prices, a report exploring the impact of high textbook prices on the financial well-being of students.*

Key findings relevant to our student population:

  • Fifty percent of community college students use some form of financial aid to pay for their textbooks (vs. 28% at 4-year public colleges)
  • Sixty-five percent of community college students use financial aid to cover 100% of their textbook costs (vs. 50% at 4-year schools)

The financial burden of higher education has a greater impact on our students. We know that faculty are very concerned about costs and bend over backwards to make course materials available to their students as inexpensively as possible by using older editions, in-class buy back programs, customized versions, course reserves, and other methods to help save money.  But no matter the time and effort you and your students put into reducing textbook costs, none of these really go to the root of the problem which is a textbook publishing market run amok.

The OER movement provides an opportunity to opt-out of the broken marketplace for textbooks.  OERs are not always perfect–is there a perfect textbook?  The available materials may not be as diverse or as in-depth in some subject areas or fields as you may be used but, then again, it’s not built on a profit-driven model.  OERs are created by educators like yourselves seeking to make teaching materials available online and free to everyone.  Moving to OER is not easy but it can be done and you have our Leeward OER faculty leaders to show you the way.  And you can always count on the EMC and Library to answer your questions and help you get started.

*Findings are based on a survey of 4,704 students at 132 schools in 26 states conducted September-October 2015.  

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