Research

Report: Textbook Pricing Affects Students' Rating of Profs

According to a recent survey, faculty members who choose course materials that cost less than $30 are 10 times more likely to get a positive rating from students than a negative rating. And students tend to give far more negative ratings to their instructors when the cost of the textbook used in their class goes into the triple digits. Nearly half of students in the same survey (47 percent) also stated that they had to pay for a "homework system" along with a textbook.

The survey was undertaken by FlatWorld, a company that publishes textbooks at what it calls "an affordable price." Its titles start at $29.95; multi-semester textbooks are $39.95 and higher. Students can get full-color print versions, do a digital textbook download or use online access. The survey, taken by undergraduate students enrolled in courses during fall 2018, drew 334 online responses over the course of five days in October; names were pulled from a SurveyMonkey audience panel.

How the price of a textbook influences students' ratings of their professors

How the price of a textbook influences students' ratings of their professors. Source: "FlatWorld Textbook Cost Study," from FlatWorld.

During the semester, students spent an average of $403 on college course materials. A third (33 percent) said that the price of the assigned textbook influenced their decision to take a given class.

Also, the more expensive the textbook, the more likely students were to use loan money to cover the cost; while 15 percent of respondents overall said they use loans; that share rose to 25 percent among students who spent more than $600 during the semester on course materials.

"Students are keenly aware of the exorbitant costs of textbooks today, and are showing through their actions that they want professors and university administrators to do more to make learning materials affordable," said Alastair Adam, CEO of FlatWorld, in a statement. "Our findings make clear that textbook prices impact what classes students choose to take, as well as how they rate their professors."

A summary of findings is openly available on the FlatWorld website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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