By Robert Cummings
1 August 2018
Photo: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/937988, CC-0
A new article in Inside Higher Ed is out today summarizing two recent studies about the impacts of high textbook prices on student behaviors. The first study by Morning Consult for Cengage is summarized in this 26 July Inside Higher Ed article. And the more recent study by VitalSource is summarized in today’s article.
As the surveys note, students are often forced to take extreme measures due to high textbook costs: “‘Thirty percent of survey respondents said they had forgone a trip home to see family, 43 percent said they skipped meals, 31 percent registered for fewer classes and 69 percent worked a job during the school year — all to save money for books.'”
It will come as little surprise to readers here that textbook prices are detrimental to the purpose of education. As Richard Baraniuk of OpenStax is quoted in the 26 July 2018 article, “‘They’re not worth it. It’s not worth it because these books shouldn’t be $300. It’s just basically a market that’s completely out of whack with reality.'”
What’s interesting to note is that these market research surveys are now often funded by for-profit textbook publishers. They are interested in documenting the crisis they created.
In part, for-profit publishers wish to push the detrimental impact of a lack of first day access. Since students cannot afford textbooks on the first day of class — because they are having to shop for cheaper alternatives — their faculty are concerned that on the first day of class is largely lost for teaching and learning.
As a solution for the lack of first day access, for profit textbook publishers favor the purchase of their materials through student loan arrangements, where students are compelled to purchase their textbooks when their financial aid is disbursed.
Another alternative is to use Open Educational Resources, which offer a price tag conducive to learning on the first day of class: free. Or close to free.