Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
William Coplin, Director, Public Affairs Program
Carol Dwyer, Community Benchmarks Program Director
Citizenship and Public Affairs
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Policy History, Theory, and Methods | Public Policy
American undergraduates spend approximately $600 per semester on required course materials, most of which are traditional textbooks. This study examines the high textbook costs placed on students and the factors contributing to cost increases. Textbook prices have increased more than twice the rate of inflation, approximately 6 percent per year since 1986. The textbook market is unlike many other economic markets within the United States, as instructors set the demand and students make the purchases.
A review of over 128 articles on textbook costs and alternatives provide information for this study. In particular, 16 studies evaluating textbook costs and alternatives provide background information for this report. In addition, the personal experiences of the author and Syracuse University students provide a student perspective of traditional textbook use. For anecdotal evidence, unstructured interviews were conducted with Syracuse University professors.
While students do not choose which textbooks they must purchase, they have several options that can reduce the cost. Course instructors have the most influence over textbook demand and thus are the key player in reducing student textbook costs. There are many alternative textbook options instructors can adopt to replace traditional textbooks and reduce student costs. This report provides instructors a resource to identify textbook alternatives best suited for their instructional style. Both print-based and electronic-based materials are considered as textbook alternatives within this study.
Syracuse University students feel that their textbook costs are unnecessarily high. Faculty can reduce student textbook costs by eliminating traditional textbooks. The cost-savings approaches of adopting open textbooks and making course materials accessible online provide students the most relief while maintaining a quality reference material. Syracuse University instructors should consider adopting these alternative approaches to reduce student costs.
Burke, Ashley Klair, "Textbook Alternatives: Faculty Approaches to Reducing Student Costs for Required Course Materials" (2014). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 815.
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