Assessing Textbook Costs at a Small College


In recent years, the cost of textbooks has risen drastically, making it an important issue for everyone involved in higher education. Accurate and specific information on the cost of textbooks is needed to effectively address the situation. Over the summer of 2018, a librarian and an undergraduate student at a small liberal arts college assessed the textbook costs at their institution, using methodology developed by community colleges doing similar research. Based on course catalogs, bookstore records, and other resources, they calculated the costs for students in different disciplines over four years of study. These costs were impacted by major, courses chosen, and where materials were purchased. Patterns included higher prices in the sciences than in the humanities, as well as more expensive textbooks at the college bookstore than at other sources. Estimated total textbook costs varied widely (from under 100toover100 to over 7,000 for four years of study), leading the researchers to conclude that no single average was representative of any one student’s experience

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