W&M seeks student input on textbook affordability

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Nationally, textbooks are estimated to cost about $600 per semester for an individual student, which is in addition to other fees already paid for tuition, room and board. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Flickr)
Nationally, textbooks are estimated to cost about $600 per semester for an individual student, which is in addition to other fees already paid for tuition, room and board. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Flickr)

When going to college, there are some hurdles a student can usually expect: balancing social life with extracurriculars and school work, making money for living expenses, adopting a healthy lifestyle and more.

Another common hurdle, regardless of public versus private school status: Paying for textbooks.

William & Mary Libraries recognizes textbooks can be expensive, and has released an online survey asking students about their costs, practices and preferences when it comes to getting their course materials.

The survey is open until Sept. 19, 2020.

Nationally, textbooks are estimated to cost about $600 per semester for an individual student, which is in addition to other fees already paid for tuition, room and board.

“There is a growing awareness of the challenge in affording a college education and all that it entails, and students and faculty across the country are increasingly interested in identifying and adopting low-cost solutions,” the university wrote on its textbook affordability page. 

December 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the price of college textbooks — and tuition — has increased more than 180 percent since January 1998. Meanwhile, car prices, clothing, cellphone service, toys and television prices have all stayed stable or decreased in that same time period.

Campus administrators will use the information for programs aiming to increase affordability of course materials, according to the survey’s landing page.

The survey takes five to 12 minutes and students who take it have the chance to win a free W&M Libraries textbook affordability T-shirt. 

For now, to help ease the burden, W&M Libraries has openly-licensed text, media and “other digital assets” students and faculty can use for their studies and research.

Faculty are also able to use Barnes & Noble’s Faculty Enlight, which helps faculty link to customized textbook packs and course materials. Faculty Enlight also allows faculty to get estimates on student textbook costs and see what other universities have adopted, according to the W&M Libraries website.

On Oct. 23, a biology professor will host an event for faculty covering the pros and cons of adapting or creating more open education resources, as well as how open resources have already helped save some of his students money.

“I work, and so I have to … save up like a budget for every semester that I can … spend on textbooks and things at the beginning of the semester … so if I don’t have enough saved up, it’s really stressful,” a student said in a W&M Libraries video about textbook affordability.

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