Report: cost of textbooks a roadblock to learning

Textbooks are among the highest out-of-pocket expenses for college students, according to a new report which proposes cost-saving alternatives that could help students save and learn more. Photo credit:

SALT LAKE CITY – The rising costs of college tuition, room and board aren’t the only financial obstacles to higher learning, according to <a href=”” target=”parent”>a new report</a> which finds that soaring textbook prices are keeping some Utah students from getting the most out of their college education.

The average cost of a college textbook has risen 82 percent in the past decade, to nearly $200 per book, said Ethan Senack, a higher-education associate for the Public Interest Research Group, adding that for students, that can mean $1,200 per year.

“When students are doing their best to earn a degree within four years,” he said, “they should be focused on taking the classes they need to earn their degree, not tapped out because they have to choose between a textbook and rent.”

The good news, Senack said, is that students are ready for alternatives to the traditional textbook model. The report proposes more universities embrace the use of “open” textbooks, which are faculty-written and peer-reviewed, but published under an open license, and free for students to read online or download and print.

“There’s a tremendous potential to save students money and give them the access they need to the textbooks they’re required to buy for their course without breaking the bank,” he said.

Open textbooks typically cost from $20 to $40 to purchase a hard copy. Legislation to authorize grants to create and adapt more open textbooks has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House, but the bills face stiff objections from the traditional publishing industry and haven’t made it to the floor of either chamber.

Despite the increased prevalence of rental programs, used books and e-books, the report found that 65 percent of students have opted out of purchasing a book for a class, with nearly all reporting they suffered academically as a result.

The full report is online at <a href=”” target=”parent”></a>.

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