Textbook Affordability

It is well known and documented across the nation that the rising cost of textbooks and other course materials have made it increasingly difficult for students to succeed in their classes.

Data from the FAU Libraries’ student satisfaction survey conducted for three weeks in April 2018 revealed the average cost of course materials for FAU’s students, as well as the impact of those costs on student success.

As the following chart shows, 44% of FAU students indicate that they spend more than $300 a semester to purchase course materials or access codes.



The impact of the high cost of these course materials is significant, with students telling us that they have registered for fewer course, they have dropped or withdrawn from courses, that they failed a course, or that they accepted getting a lower grade in a course because they did not purchase all the required course materials. As the following chart shows, over 70% of FAU students have at some point not purchased all their required course materials because of the high cost, placing them at an immediate disadvantage compared to their peers who were able to purchase all the materials needed for a course.


The Dean of the Libraries chairs the University’s Textbook Affordability Committee which reports to the Provost’s Office and is charged to “Identify options for reducing the cost of textbooks for students” and to work with partners across the University to achieve a reduction in the cost of course materials. In partnership with the Center for eLearning, the Libraries are spearheading efforts to reduce the cost of course materials for FAU’s students by taking the following actions:

  • working to increase the number of textbooks and other course materials that are placed on Reserve in the Libraries, through soliciting donations, as well as requesting additional funds from the University to be able to purchase these materials
  • checking for free or library-owned or licensed materials that are required for each class and creating a tool enabling students to check what is available course-by-course
  • assisting faculty with identifying free or library-licensed digital materials that can be used for courses in lieu of expensive textbooks or access codes to commercially produced digital materials
  • developing a system of identifying low-cost or no-cost (beyond tuition) courses that would be identified in the course catalog
  • encouraging faculty (through a grant award process) to modify freely-available digital materials to use for their courses
  • encouraging faculty (through a grant award process) to create their own digital textbooks that would be free to students

The new program is known as ACT: Affordable Curriculum Today and is being put in place this summer for partial implementation for fall 2018 and full implementation for spring 2019. It is our hope that all the separate segments of this program will gradually result not only in lower costs for FAU’s students but also in greater student success throughout their academic careers.





The Soaring Cost of Textbooks

According to a report of the US Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) published in 2014, textbook costs have gone up 82% during the last decade. The study found that the average student spends more than $1100 a year on textbooks. Because of the high cost, some students forego buying required textbooks for classes, thus putting their academic success in jeopardy. Of those 65% who reported that they did not purchase a required text because of cost, 94% of them indicated it hurt them academically. While the price of individual textbooks varies greatly, depending on subject matter and many other factors, the National Association of College Stores (NACS) reported that the average cost of a textbook in 2011-2012 was $68 dollars – that cost rose to an average of $79 for 2013-2014. Since textbook costs are increasing three to four times faster than the rate of inflation, that average price will have increased substantially in today’s market. For some classes, the cost of an average textbook will be far above the general average. On the NACS FAQ on textbooks, they reported that students estimated spending an average of $313 on required course materials during the fall 2014 term.

So, what can we do? Many universities are promoting the creation of Open Textbooks, meaning textbooks that are created by faculty and made freely available over the Internet. The University of Minnesota has established the Open Textbook Library which serves as a repository and clearinghouse for over 200 high quality textbooks in many disciplines. The textbooks can be edited and tailored to fit a specific course or instructor and faculty are encouraged not only to create their own textbooks but also to review other Open Textbooks that are already available. The University of Minnesota reported that their Open Textbook Network has so far saved students across the country $1.5 million and they noted that “the $1.5 million in student savings was reported by nine early OTN members, including California Polytechnic State University–San Luis Obispo, Cleveland State University, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Ohio State University, Purdue University, University of Arizona, University of Minnesota, University of Northwestern St. Paul, and University of Oklahoma.”

Open Textbooks are one type of Open Educational Resource 1210px-OER_Logo.svg

which are defined in Wikipedia as “freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes.”

The FAU Libraries will be working with the Colleges and faculty across the University to develop strategies to support the creation and adoption of Open Textbooks and other open educational resources in order to reduce the costs of an FAU degree. Stay tuned to this space for more information.