Will online college courses help reduce textbook prices?
Every college graduate knows the games schools and textbook publishers play when it comes to revenue. The average textbook company releases a new version of each of its books every few years, even if the information hasn’t changed much. And your teacher plays along, demanding the new textbook for his class, usually because the textbook company has spent huge amounts of money convincing him that any new material he’s added warrants the change.
Heck, sometimes the college professor writes his own textbook, asks students to buy it, and gets rich in the process. And it doesn’t hurt if this textbook is not readily available at the library or elsewhere, students could use it for free.
You can’t imagine it if you feel that the cost of textbooks has skyrocketed over the past few years. A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that nationally, consumer prices for college textbooks rose 88% between 2006 and 2016. During that time, college tuition and fees—which follow also a dangerous trend – increased by 63%.
On average, students in four-year schools spend about $1,230 on textbooks and supplies each year, according to the latest figures from CollegeBoard. But, the latest figures are from last year, and many are wondering if the online university brought on by Covid-19 could actually bring down textbook prices for everyone.
While the textbook industry would obviously hate for this to happen, the realities of pursuing higher education in the midst of a pandemic could bring about this change regardless. Like it or not, students attending the school have little incentive to purchase a large, bulky textbook when most of their materials are presented online.
With that in mind, maybe – just maybe – Covid-19 will actually have a positive impact on this tiny part of our lives. If online school could bring down textbook prices, it would be a huge win for students who desperately need a break.
The internet has made it easier to find cheap books
According to trend expert and keynote speaker Daniel Levine, director of the Avant-Guide Institute, the past few years have seen a “game of cat and mouse” between textbook publishers seeking to raise prices and students to finding workarounds.
“The students win,” says Levine. Indeed, if you look at trends, they are better aligned with students finding more and better online resources that can help them beat the system.
It doesn’t take much research to find cheap ways to access college textbooks these days, after all, and many new options have come to fruition thanks to technology. You can buy used textbooks online from places like Chegg
Friendly teachers often don’t even need textbooks at all, or they allow students easy access to materials online — and that was even before the pandemic took hold.
But, Levine says the pandemic is accelerating that trend.
“Pushing students into digital learning has the effect of pushing them into digital textbooks,” he says. “And spending more time in front of screens gives them more opportunities to discover hidden digital resources.”
Also, paper textbooks are really outdated, and there are so many reasons for that. Monica Eaton-Cardone of Chargebacks 911, a consumer fraud tracking agency, says college-age students have been brought up on a constant diet of multimedia technology, and it’s obvious to them that a stack of pages of dead trees is inherently limited.
“It cannot update. He can’t show video,” she said. “It’s a stoic one-sided conversation – the polar antithesis of what young people are used to today.”
Movement to Open Educational Resources (OER)
Schools planning to go online this year due to Covid-19 have had all summer to find ways to present their material, whether it’s Zoom meetings, message boards, their own platforms or many other options available. It’s likely that some of them will have moved much of their course material entirely to the web, which could eliminate the need for physical textbooks for some classes altogether.
But there has been a major move toward free college textbooks that predates the pandemic, according to Brian Galvin, the academic director of Varsity Tutors. Galvin says the biggest lever colleges need to leverage is the popularity of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement, which has seen professors choose to teach courses using electronic textbooks that are essentially “open-source” and put available through non-profit organizations that aim to reduce the cost of learning.
“As classes move online and students travel far and wide from the campus bookstore, progressive faculty may well see this as a great opportunity to shift to OER and move away from traditional textbooks,” Galvin says.
However, as professors adapt their in-person classes to an online format, it remains to be seen how many people will be able to devote more time to reviewing new material. For this reason, any major shift to free textbooks could take years or decades to materialize.
Don’t pay too much for textbooks this year
If you’re preparing for college and want to avoid shelling out up to $1,200 for textbooks and supplies, you don’t have to rely on your school to do the right thing. As we’ve already mentioned, the internet is a treasure trove when it comes to finding cheap ways to learn, whether you decide to rent your textbooks or buy used books from someone else. other.
When considering all your options, be sure to email your college professor to ask if an older edition of a textbook will do. If so, you can easily save a lot by buying a used book from a few years ago. Many professors who are tired of their students getting ripped off seem willing to help them find alternatives, but you’ll never know if yours will unless you ask.
No matter what you do, don’t head to your college bookstore’s website to stock up on “required” reading without looking for a cheaper way to learn. With a little work, you can find the exact books you need or something close for a fraction of the price.