Adapted from our white paper, Reducing Textbook Costs through Transitioning to an Online Bookstore. Click here to download a free copy.
According to the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGS’ Fixing the Broken Textbook Market report, 65% of surveyed college students said that they had decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive. The survey also found that 94% of students who had foregone purchasing a textbook were concerned that doing so would hurt their grade in a course.
If your college’s experience is similar, it’s important to consider the factors that might be contributing to poor student utilization of your bookstore. As a first step, undertake an audit of your current service and consider all the elements that might be contributing to either high material costs or low student satisfaction.
Through growing student feedback and internal reviews, City University of New York’s (CUNY) John Jay College of Criminal Justice identified the diminishing returns of its brick and mortar school bookstore as a growing and significant problem for students and the college itself. A cross-functional textbook savings committee was formed and extensive research was done to investigate options and uncover student needs.
Consistent with the Fixing the Broken Textbook Market report, John Jay found that 77% of students surveyed might not buy textbooks for one or more classes due to the high cost of materials. The school knew “it was time to do something dramatic to reduce textbook costs.” John Jay also determined that the extremely high cost of space they were subsidizing for their bookstore could be re-purposed into another, very valuable student resource.
“It was time to do something dramatic to reduce textbook costs”
- Robert Pignatello, SVP of Finance and Administration, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Davenport University, the second largest private, non-profit institute of higher education in Michigan, with 10 campuses across the state, started tracking student feedback on textbook sales in 2009. Similar to John Jay, Davenport has seen significant declines in student satisfaction centered on the rising cost of textbooks. The student satisfaction trends become a leading indicator of future declines in sales and bookstore utilization, leading to the development of a core cross-functional team to quickly review alternatives.
For both John Jay and Davenport, understanding and quantifying the magnitude of the problem for students was a critical first step in developing their new textbook distribution solutions. There are two important components of this step:
- Establishing a cross-functional textbook savings committee, which should include representation from financial administration, academic leadership, faculty and students
- Developing student satisfaction tracking to quantify key issues, measure trends over time and establish benchmarks that a new solution can be compared to
For more information and other key best practices in driving textbook affordability, download our free white paper Reducing Textbook Costs through Transitioning to an Online Bookstore.