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Survey: Majority of Faculty Acknowledge that Textbook Affordability Is an Issue on Their Campus

stack of textbooks with piggy bank on top

In a recent survey, 90 percent of faculty reported that textbook affordability is a concern for their institution. Yet just 40 percent said their school has a program focused on reducing textbook costs. That's according to the second annual FlatWorld Textbook Affordability Study, in which the learning materials publisher polled 786 faculty members at two- and four-year institutions across the country about their attitudes toward textbook costs.  

According to the survey, about two-thirds of faculty think textbook prices have stayed the same or increased compared to previous semesters. When asked about the biggest drivers of high textbook prices, faculty cited unnecessary new editions, bundled courseware, bookstore price gouging, one-time-use digital codes, and monopoly control of the textbook publishing industry, among other factors. Respondents estimated that students at their school spent $489 last semester on course materials.

Other findings include:

  • Faculty are uncomfortable with most publisher incentives for textbook adoption. In particular, the majority of faculty deemed the following practices either "generally unacceptable" or "totally unacceptable": publishers funding department grants in exchange for textbook adoption; publishers funding student programs in exchange for textbook adoption; and publishers hosting instructors at a "vacation location" to provide feedback on a textbook.
  • Sixty-four percent of respondents viewed inclusive access programs — in which publishers provide a textbook discount in exchange for a commitment from the school to ensure students automatically purchase course materials as part of tuition costs — as either "generally unacceptable" or "totally unacceptable."
  • For many of the publisher incentives that faculty deemed unacceptable, respondents nevertheless reported that the practices do occur at their institutions. For example, 17 percent of respondents said that publishers provide their university or department a discount in exchange for an inclusive access program.
  • Across the board, textbook adoption incentives are disproportionately used at larger institutions (those with an enrollment of more than 20,000 students).

The full report is available on the FlatWorld site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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