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Kirk Bodick

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The Dawn of the $400 Textbook and Helping College Students Fight These Costs

Posted by Kirk Bodick on July 28, 2015

Mark Perry is concurrently a scholar at AEI and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan's Flint campus. Over the past few years, he has written a number of interesting articles tracking the alarming rise of college textbook prices.  His latest article, published this week, disects the era of $400 textbooks and lists the 15 most expensive textbooks at the University of Michigan-Flint.  Here’s the link to his post:

https://www.aei.org/publication/the-new-era-of-the-400-college-textbook-which-is-part-of-the-unsustainable-higher-education-bubble/

In this article, Mr. Perry updates charts illustrating how the cost of college textbooks is outpacing the national Consumer Price Index as well as recreational book prices:

CPI_1998_to_2014

Also included is a price chart listing the top 15 most expensive textbooks at the University of Michigan-Flint. This had me thinking – I wonder how Akademos’ prices compared to the UM-Flint’s bookstore prices?  We conducted a price comparison of the article’s price chart against our published student prices on our TextbookX.com website and the results were dramatic per the chart below:

 UM_Flint_Book_List

There was also significant savings on our used rental books -  $1,543.15 or 29%!

Rising textbook costs impact everyone in the academic chain:

  • Students - who can’t afford to pay for texts so they go without, impacting academic performance
  • Faculty - who have students come to class ill-prepared and slow down the teaching process
  • Administrators - who are fighting shrinking budgets and count on student success and bookstore sales in their funding formulas

Akademos’ Online Bookstore Services can partner with colleges and universities to provide innovative and unique solutions to help keep textbook costs low. We also provide services designed to provide tools for faculty to procure alternative lower cost course materials.

For example, one way faculty can fight this runaway textbook price train is by using Open Education Resources such as the OpenStax College books and customized CoursePacks that contain quality teaching content, yet are free or at a greatly reduced cost to students. 

Our free Textbook Adoption Tool (adoption.akademos.com) allows faculty to choose from over 2 million titles across 3,600 topics, makes it easy to compare different formats, includes an affordability index for each title, and provides the opportunity to easily discover open source content. This empowers faculty to make better-informed decisions about content and their impact on course material costs, while preserving academic freedom.

To learn more about expanding affordable textbook options for students, our online bookstore services for colleges and universities, and to see how the Akademos solution can work for your institution, register today for a personalized 1:1 consultation

Click here to register for a 1:1 consultation 

Topics: Textbook Affordability

The $4 Billion Hidden Cost of College Textbooks

Posted by Kirk Bodick on February 3, 2015

The rallying cry against high textbook costs is now ubiquitous across college campuses.  Administrators, faculty, students and parents have all complained as textbooks prices continue to climb.  Recent studies have shown that many students are opting not to buy all the textbooks for their courses due to these high prices, leading to students being less prepared for class and negatively impacting their academic performance.

While the high prices of textbooks affect all students, there is a hidden and massive cost for students on financial aid loans - which could be adding as much as $4 billion to the spiraling student debt load a year - that has not yet been a part of this very important discussion.

Consider the Fall 2014 federal student financial aid interest rates. Subsidized and unsubsidized rates for undergraduate loans were 4.66% with a typical repayment term of 10 years. However, most common loan repayment programs include deferred plans after graduation, which provide students the opportunity to choose from several options including repayment schedules that extend from 15 to over 18 years. There are a number of online student debt calculators that you can use to calculate student loan repayment options.  One I recommend is The New York Times ‘Student Loan Calculator.'

Considering the standard rate above, if a student is using loan aid to pay for textbooks, the impact on the effective prices is quite staggering. For example:

  • Purchasing a $200 textbook will cost $251 by the time the loan is paid off
  • Spending $1,000 a year on textbooks and class materials will cost $1,253

With total undergraduate enrollment now at 18MM and 80% percent of first-time undergraduate students in degree-granting institutions receiving financial aid, there are over 14 million undergraduates who are receiving financial aid funds to apply towards the purchase of textbooks. If each student spends an extra $253 a year (due to the interest rate of loans), an additional $3.6 billion in student debt is created.

This comes at a time when the growing problem of student debt in the US is now at $1.3 trillion, topping even credit card debt. Factoring in this massive hidden cost, there has never been a more important time to drive down textbook prices and provide students with more affordable course material options.

At Akademos, we are focused every day at driving down the cost of textbooks and course materials to lessen the long-term cost of education for students.  By providing access to over 12 million IBSNs with a complete inventory of new, used, rental, eBook and Marketplace options for textbook purchases, students can increase their purchasing power and reduce their growing student debt load.  Last year alone, Akademos saved students over $10 Million in textbook and course material costs.

The $200 new textbook would cost an average of 60% less by purchasing from the Akademos Marketplace.  Thus, if a student spent $120 instead for that textbook, they would save $400 a year.  Across the entire student population of undergraduate students receiving any financial aid this savings would translate into a $1.5 billion reduction in the student debt obligation.  More importantly, these savings would make it easier for students to purchase all their required textbooks, facilitating learning and their academic success.

To learn more about our ideas and solutions for expanding affordable textbook options for students, please visit our website at www.akademos.com.

Student_Debt_Blog_2.3.15

Topics: Textbook Affordability

New Addition to the Akademos Team

Posted by Kirk Bodick on January 16, 2015

As schools throughout the country focus more on textbook affordability and student success, we are pleased to announce the addition of Joe Diggins to the Akademos team.  As Senior Regional Sales Manager, Joe will focus on providing support and consultation to schools in the Western United States to help meet the rapid growth in conversations we are having with administrators about innovative bookstore solutions.

Joe has almost 15 years of experience in working to satisfy the needs of higher education institutions and most recently was with Cengage Learning supporting schools through the west.

Joe will be based in California and is a dedicated resource for administrators and faculty who would like to hear more about expanding affordable textbooks options for its students, online bookstore integration, mobile optimized commerce solutions, campus bookstore profitability analysis and more.

To learn more about our innovative bookstore solution and schedule a personalized 1:1 consultation, register here today.

Topics: Company News

Is Your Campus Bookstore Missing Textbook Sales?

Posted by Kirk Bodick on January 8, 2015

This is a very important and sometimes difficult question to answer. However, there’s a good chance that more students than you think are purchasing course materials outside of your campus bookstore or even deciding not to purchase their materials at all.

Many administrators don’t have the data and/or an easy method to quickly make this determination. Even if it looks like your campus bookstore sales are strong, you may have a significant percentage of students not purchasing through the bookstore, which based upon current trends will only continue to grow over time. A recurring theme of declining textbook sales and students abandoning the official campus bookstore has surfaced in our discussions with many higher education institutions.

This has been a growing issue for many schools who now see their bookstore offering low cost textbook purchases as a core service to it’s students based upon the realization that the purchase of course materials in a timely manner is directly correlated to student (and ultimately institution) success, and even future funding.

For schools interested in understanding the magnitude of this migration we’ve developed a simple tool that can help estimate the percentage of students not purchasing their textbooks through your campus bookstore and track potential student savings. An estimate of the current textbook sales through your bookstore, student full-time enrollment population and a few other data points is enough to get us started.

If you’re interested in a confidential review of your potential migration and opportunity to capture textbook sales, register here for a 1:1 consultation.

Topics: Bookstore Sales

Webinar: Key Considerations for Transitioning to an Online Bookstore

Posted by Kirk Bodick on October 7, 2014

Update: If you missed this webinar, email us at webinar@akademos.com to view a recorded version of the presentation.

Is an online bookstore the right choice for your school?

In Akademos' October webinar, Jaye Lynn Bergers, Director of Procurement and Retail Services at Davenport University will share her experience implementing Akademos’ online bookstore 'marketplace' model. We hope you can join us.

Key Considerations for Transitioning to an Online Bookstore

Live Webinar: Wednesday, October 22 at 1:00 pm EDT

In this webinar, find out...

  • How to create an effective partnership between online and on campus bookstores
  • Operational considerations for an online bookstore
  • Best practices for faculty adoption
  • Tips for marketing to students
 
Featured Speakers:
  • Jaye Lynn Bergers, Director of Procurement and Retail Services, Davenport University
  • Kirk Bodick, VP of Sales, Akademos

Topics: Webinars & Events, New Bookstore Models

New Additions to the Akademos Sales Team

Posted by Kirk Bodick on August 4, 2014

In order to help us accommodate our rapid sales growth, I am pleased to announce the addition of two new Senior Regional Sales Managers, Leslie Sands and Shana Neely to the Akademos team.

With over 35 years of collective education sales experience, Leslie and Shana are well positioned to work with the increasing number of prospective institutions seeking to partner with Akademos to provide innovative online bookstore solutions.

Both our new team members come to us from the Pearson Learning Solutions Strategic Partnerships Group. In their previous roles as Executive Directors, they worked with Presidents, Chancellors, Provosts and other Academic leadership to develop cutting edge content solutions for large Universities, Colleges and System Offices such as the Kentucky Community & Technical College System, Tennessee Board of Regents and West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

In addition, during their education sales careers they have created partnerships with major Higher Education institutions such as the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS), Community College of the District of Columbia (CCDC), Pennsylvania Department of Education and The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), delivering online learning programs for universities, community colleges and adult education.

Leslie is based out of Virginia and will be covering the Mid-Atlantic States while Shana will cover the South out of her Mississippi home base.

With these new additions to our existing stellar sales team, we are well positioned to continue and accelerate our engagements with major Higher Ed institutions.

Please join me in welcoming Leslie and Shana to Akademos!

Visit our careers page to learn more about job opportunities with Akademos.

New Student PIRGs Survey Confirms High Textbook Costs Impact Course Selection and Student Success

Posted by Kirk Bodick on February 11, 2014

If you’re not aware of the work of the U.S. PIRG Education Fund & The Student PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups), you should be.  Among other initiatives, they focus efforts on making higher education more affordable.

They’ve recently released a new study on the textbook market and the rising impact of cost to students.

I’ve included a link to their study below, but here are a few of the items in the report that jumped out to me:

  • The cost of textbook and course materials continues to rise; the average student today spends up to $1,200 per year.
  • High textbook costs impact a student’s decision on whether or not to purchase textbooks for a course. Sixty-five percent of all students decide to not to buy a textbook for at least one of their courses.  This decision will also play into their academic preparedness and success.
  • Just as troubling, nearly 50% of the students surveyed indicated that textbook costs influence which and how many courses they take.
  • Used textbook and rental purchases help mitigate costs, but the proliferation of new editions drive up pricing for these solutions as well.
  • There continues to be strong student interest in utilizing Open Education Resources/Textbooks for their courses via electronic access with optional print purchase, as they can potentially save a student $100 per course.  In an effort to make OER materials more widespread, the study includes a call to action for faculty to consider the use of OERs for their courses.

These are just some of the key findings in the recent Student PIRGs report.  I urge you to read it for yourself and share your thoughts with me. The full report can be found at: http://studentpirgs.org/reports/sp/fixing-broken-textbook-market

You can also check out our recent survey of college presidents, provosts, and chief academic officers to see how institutional textbook affordability initiatives positively impact student retention, persistence and satisfaction. This report can be found under White Papers on our Resources page.

Topics: Research, Textbook Affordability

The Changing Landscape for Bookstore Services

Posted by Kirk Bodick on September 1, 2012

The bookstore services landscape for educational institutions, both public and private, has been radically transformed in the past five years. More and more operations have been outsourced or restructured to resemble businesses in the private sector while bookstore operations at the majority of colleges and universities still operate under a model from a time that has come and gone.

The primary reason for a bookstore’s existence—the textbook—has seen many changes, from the delivery of content (online and eBook) to the soaring rise of new textbook pricing (due in part to the increase of the used textbook market including textbook rentals) to the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), which among other policy changes allows students to become informed consumers of textbooks with the right to have ISBNs identified prior to course enrollment.

HEOA empowered students to not only shop at their local bookstore but also shop via non-traditional sources (online, used and rental) to find their course content at the lowest possible cost. Many students abandoned their local bookstores finding lower pricing off campus while giving up the opportunity to apply financial aid to their textbook purchases. And this in turn eroded the campus bookstore’s operating margins at a time when all institutions were feeling the pressure of decreased funding and budget cuts.

Traditionally bookstores were the domain of the self-operated store or contracted to nationally known bookstore operators that were an extension of their commercial operations. From a business perspective there have been many changes in the bookstore industry. There have been consolidations, spin-offs, bankruptcies, liquidations, and start-ups that higher education administrators had to consider when reviewing bookstore provider options.

Yet, when it comes to the scoping, reviewing and awarding of bookstore services it seems that the landscape has not evolved as much as other educational services on campus. Most bookstore operating contracts are awarded similarly to the process 10 years ago. Administrators either negotiate and renew with their existing provider, maintaining the status quo, or prepare an RFP for release and then evaluate with a grading rubric based on a traditional on-ground bookstore services model.

Where does that leave the bookstore and student? The bookstore continues its downward spiral of decreased revenue by supporting an operating model with high textbook margins so that they can provide sufficient commission return to the institution. And the student will continue to flee to off-campus booksellers who don’t have the artificially high markups without any commission payments due to the institution.

So, how can this cycle be broken? If higher education administrators will consider the following factors when considering, specifying and evaluating bookstore operators, the institution will win by having students return to the institution-sanctioned bookstore (physical or virtual) to purchase their textbooks. This will in turn drive additional merchandise and other purchases thus stabilizing and in most cases increasing revenue. Students can purchase reasonably priced textbooks with a choice of delivery options (new, used, rental or eBook) and with the option of applying financial aid to any textbook purchase by buying at the institution’s bookstore.

Savvy administrators are recognizing that there is a paradigm shift for bookstore services criteria, evaluation and contract negotiations. Here are a few things for administrators to consider when specifying, evaluating and awarding bookstore contracts:

Things to Consider When Specifying and Contracting for Bookstore Services:

  1. Long Term Contracts: Can anyone predict what any bookstore will be selling five years from now? With the gradual increase of eBook and online content delivery, physical bookstore space requirements for textbook delivery will become less and less. Yet many institutions are signing 7 to 15 year bookstore operations agreements. Don’t sign bookstore contracts longer than 5 years and consider 2-3 year contracts so that you have options for repurposing physical space.
  2. Commissions: Don’t sign contracts with high commissions and long term periods to finance bookstore renovations or garner high commissions. High commissions mean students will continue to abandon the bookstore and purchase off campus. Find other means (student usage fees, etc.) to fund renovation and capital improvement projects, not via textbook commissions.  Consider commission fees between zero and five percent to retain and increase bookstore volume and lower textbook costs.
  3. Exclusivity & Online Programs: Why sign a contract with a bookstore provider to be the exclusive provider for bookstore services at all? Consider awarding multiple contracts to keep textbook prices competitive. Similarly, why have the same contract for both on-ground and online students? Most institutions see online as a way to grow student populations and revenue without the physical plant costs (including bookstore costs). An online student may rarely if at all go on campus. Doesn’t it make sense to have a bookstore operator with lower margins and commissions who pass on textbook savings for online students?
  4. Financial Aid: Does your bookstore operator allow a student to purchase content via any delivery method (new, used, rental or eBook) and apply financial aid and grants towards their purchase? If not, you are doing your students a disservice while also denying your institution revenue stream opportunities.
  5. Supply Chain: Are textbook purchases limited to the inventory of your local bookstore or the national chain operator’s inventory? Why not have a bookstore that can rapidly deliver content in a variety of formats from a national network of content providers in variety of formats. Buybacks can also be conducted anytime virtually beyond the traditional on-campus buyback periods.
  6. Innovative Technology: Are faculty dependent upon their publisher representatives and/or bookstore personnel to aid in the selection of course materials? Work with bookstore operators who provide self-service textbook adoption tools, open education resources and custom course packs to aid in the selection of appropriate, lower cost content.

These are a few of the points to consider the next time institutions are considering a bookstore operator and negotiating contracts. With some out-of-the-box thinking everyone involved in the process will prosper. Students will return to the institution-sanctioned bookstore for price, service and financial aid considerations. Institutions will benefit by having more satisfied customers while increasing volume and recapturing lost revenue.

 

Download the full white paper Changing Landscape of Bookstore Services for Higher Education - http://www.akademos.com/resources/

Topics: Commentary