Why Are Students Still Paying So Much For Textbooks?

After settling into his dorm this past fall, John McGrath, a freshman at Rutgers University, took the campus shuttle to the school bookstore. He waited in line for 40 minutes clutching a list of four classes—including Microeconomics, Introduction to Calculus, and Expository Writing—and walked out later with an armful of books, some bundled with digital codes that he would use to access assignments on the publishers’ websites. He also exited the store with a bill for about $450.

McGrath, an accounting major, pays close attention to his expenditures. He had researched all the textbooks options—new, used, digital, loose-leaf, rental—and knew about the various online venues that compete with the campus bookstore for sales. His plan was to buy materials that he could later resell. But he was surprised to learn not only that he had to purchase digital codes for half of his classes, but also that those codes were often sold exclusively at the campus bookstore—and for a steep price.

More here.

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47 thoughts on “Why Are Students Still Paying So Much For Textbooks?

  1. Interesting article about a relatively new phenomenon, but I don’t think that the cost of textbooks and access codes is the major driver of total costs at four-year selective institutions (the only kind of college I know anything about). So far as I can tell, the major driver of steadily escalating costs is administrators.

    1. As Everett Dirksen never said, but should have, ‘a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money’…

    2. y81, This is a complete myth. The cost of administrators is not escalating.
      Try Bowen and McPherson, Lesson Plan.

      Great piece Laura. I’ll link from CT on Monday (when we get more traffic)

      The best (really, the best one, not the cheapest) Econ textbook is online for free (so, also the cheapest), courtesy of Sam Bowles’s team, and the Open Society Foundation. And the Bank of England. And Teagle, And others… Mankiw knows this. Indeed, all econ professors at elite institutions know it. So at least in Economics it is unforgivable that students are made to pay into the back accounts of their professors.

      I’m using a book I wrote this semester. Its $30, and I am, feebly, giving the students each $1 so that at least I won’t make any money on it. I’ll also treat them to a pizza evening and will pretend that its not coming out of my own pocket so they don’t feel too grateful.

      1. From the reviews, Bowen and McPherson don’t seem to address the issue I am talking about–the only issue I know anything about–which is that selective four year colleges have become unaffordable for the middle class, like our hostess. (Funnily enough, the former presidents of Princeton and Macalester choose to focus on problems at all the various institutions that are not selective four year colleges. Matt. 7:3.) Maybe administrative bloat isn’t the reason that Princeton (or, with even less justification, Macalester) proposes to charge families $250,000 a child for a college degree, but that situation is not sustainable.

      2. I was suggesting that you read the actual book, not the reviews. I summarise the evidence about administrative bloat myth somewhere in this post: http://crookedtimber.org/2016/06/06/lesson-plan/ Like the many myths about student debt, the myth abounds thanks to careless journalism; it’s fuelled by faculty who want to blame administrators for everything that goes wrong (eg, very few scholarly books about changes in affordability in selective higher ed discuss the dramatic reduction in teaching loads for faculty over the past 40 years or the effect those have had on costs).

        It isn’t that surprising that two of the country’s foremost economists of higher education wrote a book about what they know more about than almost anyone else.

        And… for what its worth, only the phenomenally rich pay even close to the sticker price at Princeton, and very few do at Macalaster, For children from ordinary families who are admitted actual costs at Mac are roughly the costs of going to their in-state institution; at Princeton they are less.

      3. “And… for what its worth, only the phenomenally rich pay even close to the sticker price at Princeton, and very few do at Macalaster”

        Speaking for another Ivy… we are paying sticker price for our daughter and we are not even close to phenomenally rich. When we inherited money, we put it in a 529 for the kids’ college expenses because that was our priority. With the exception of the overloads I teach, which bring in $10K per year, the money for my daughter’s college expenses does not come from our salaries. We are currently comfortable. However, that could all change if my husband doesn’t have a job by the time his unemployment runs out in March. I guess we’ll find out. We have a bit of fat that we can still cut from our budget. And our daughter is aware that there is still a bit of a shortfall in her college budget over the long term, so she needs to come up with $12K somehow. I suggested egg donation. But she actually has applied to be an RA, which will help significantly and will not involve needles. 😉

      4. To my understanding, there isn’t much scholarship aid available for those with family incomes over $250K or so–there would be even less if Bowen and McPherson’s plan of cutting back on merit aid is adopted–and $250K is not “phenomenally rich,” especially if you have two or three children. I may be wrong about the aetiology: maybe low teaching loads for tenured faculty are the biggest problem, not administrative bloat. But the lords of higher education seem not to be interested in addressing the problem at all: outside the Ivies, they are eliminating need blind admissions rather than controlling costs.

      5. “and $250K is not “phenomenally rich,” especially if you have two or three children.”

        We have this argument all the time. And again I say, actually, it is phenomenally rich. If we made $250K in our household, sheesh. Not sure what we’d do with the extra money except save it and retire early.

      6. I’m finding the reply thread rather hard to follow (I never know where my post will land — must not do much replying). Yes, phenomenally was an overstatement.

        Again, I’d recommend reading Bowen and McPherson who are, indeed, concerned with the cost containment and with quality, and tend to address them (sensibly) in tandem. Here’s a big problem though: the market doesn’t do much disciplining, especially at the top end where the sticker prices are high because people want their kids to attend ‘name’ schools for reasons that have nothing to do with cost or quality; and government similarly exerts no market pressure. Whereas States mainly restrict their subsidies to state schools which they don’t know how to regulate; the Feds give out vouchers (Pell grants for the poor, tax deductions for tuition and tax exempt growth in 529s for the more affluent) which can be applied to just about anything (I always think it’s funny that liberals are opposed to vouchers in k-12 but enthused about them for higher ed). Look, if you are paying full freight at an Ivy, your kid could have gone somewhere else that is very selective (though not as selective) where you’d be paying a lot less: including (but not limited to) your state flagship or, if you’re in Michigan or Virginia, another quite respectable state school.

        And yes, if you have several kids, its expensive to put them through college; as everything else is (I have 3, inconveniently spaced so that we’ll never reap the financial aid benefits of having 2 going at the same time). My eldest went to a state school, as will my others. The big cost has not been and will not be tuition, but living expenses, over which colleges have limited control. We haven’t gotten and won’t get much, if any, aid. But we’re not an ordinary family — we earn about 4 times the median household income in the state. Its also not ordinary to inherit enough money to make a dent in college costs (in that respect we will at least be ordinary – I am anticipating that older relatives will be a net cost to us, though not, thank goodness, my own parents, because they live in a welfare state).

        There are big problems in higher ed. One is making it more affordable to lower income families. Another is improving the quality of instruction. Yet another is archaic governance structures, which hamper administrators trying to contain costs. If you want to reduce the costs of selective colleges, lobby to reduce the power of faculty relative to administrators, don’t complain about (imaginary) administrative bloat.

      7. Wendy, you said “And again I say, actually, it is phenomenally rich. If we made $250K in our household, sheesh. Not sure what we’d do with the extra money except save it and retire early.” In my neighborhood, a whole lot of my neighbors make that kind of money between both partners. Couple of hundred and twenty thousand jobs, and you are there. If you moved to the nabe, as I did, in 1985 when houses cost $180, you have probably killed that mortgage and your kids are out of school you are in fat city. If you are a youngish couple which moved to the nabe year before last when houses cost a million one or a million two, your interest in your mortgage is fifty, the taxes are ten, if you are hiring someone to care for your kid so you can both keep the jobs going and SHE has to pay Arlington rent that’s thirty more. Virginia taxes are twenty five, federal taxes getting stiffer with SALT deduction going away. All the plumbers and cashiers get wages which compensate for their commute from someplace where housing is affordable. If you have eighty thousand of student debt each, there’s a treadmill feel to it all.
        World’s smallest air violin, right? But it isn’t the kind of luxe life which you would have in Worcester or Chantilly on that kind of money. I did buy in 85, and my financial life is indeed low stress. But for my neighbors, it’s not.

      8. I am almost surely not going to read the Bowen and McPherson book (I have many interests, and limited time), but I will say, harryb has greatly influenced my thinking purely by arguing against his own class interest, so I will not think or say in the future that administrative bloat is a major driver of increasing college costs, and will suggest faculty workloads as something to investigate.

      9. …“And again I say, actually, it is phenomenally rich. If we made $250K in our household, sheesh. Not sure what we’d do with the extra money except save it and retire early.” In my neighborhood, a whole lot of my neighbors make that kind of money between both partners. Couple of hundred and twenty thousand jobs, and you are there. If you moved to the nabe, as I did, in 1985 when houses cost $180, you have probably killed that mortgage and your kids are out of school you are in fat city. If you are a youngish couple which moved to the nabe year before last when houses cost a million one or a million two…

        Hmm, this sounds a lot like Fairfax County, or a place pretty much like it. (If not Fairfax, then PW or another similar county for which this holds exactly the same.) There (the second highest per-capita income county in the nation, which is to say rich), the median household income is about $120K and the median home listing is $584K. So, if you are buying into a neighborhood in the second richest county in the country where the houses are north of a million and your household income is more than twice the median, then I don’t know what to say. We can quibble about the adjective “phenomenally” but I think the word “rich” isn’t disputable.

        If you are making $250K as a household and still having trouble sending your kids to college then let me suggest some things:

        1. See a financial planner.
        2. Buy a cheaper house. I.e., not one with a seven figure price tag.
        3. Get a better handle on your priorities. If college for your kids is one of them then act that way. Otherwise stop complaining.

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. College affordability is a problem, but not for the upper middle class and above, and our policy decisions should reflect that.

        .

      10. Jay said:

        “Hmm, this sounds a lot like Fairfax County, or a place pretty much like it. (If not Fairfax, then PW or another similar county for which this holds exactly the same.) There (the second highest per-capita income county in the nation, which is to say rich), the median household income is about $120K and the median home listing is $584K. So, if you are buying into a neighborhood in the second richest county in the country where the houses are north of a million and your household income is more than twice the median, then I don’t know what to say. We can quibble about the adjective “phenomenally” but I think the word “rich” isn’t disputable.”

        Two thoughts:

        1) Are you positive that those “homes” are single family homes? The $584k median probably includes condos. I get $633k on Zillow when I did a search for single family homes in Fairfax County.
        2) Also, Fairfax County is LARGE. I was never that much of an expert on suburban VA real estate (aside from a little prospecting along the metro lines), but your averages presumably include a lot of non-commutable locations, especially for parents. (We lived a 15 minute walk from the Shady Grove metro in MD, and even that produced a 75-90 minute commute for my husband, depending on if he hit the shuttle schedule right in DC.)

      11. As a native New Yorker who grew up on Long Island and lived in Brooklyn for 5 years, I’m not fond of being lectured to about the cost of living in certain areas of the country. I know. I get it. I lived it. $250K goes less far in the metro NYC area than in other areas.

        But I also look at my family and our household income, which is less than $250K (much less now that my husband is unemployed). (And let me say: I am a college professor, and I made more money than my husband when we were both working. Our household income will never get close to $250K.) We are rich not because of our income but because of our choices and because of our relative lack of debt. And we benefitted from my in-laws, who accumulated the savings they did because of their choices and their lack of debt.

        When we inherited money, which happened not all at once but in bits and pieces over about 5 years, we realized somewhat slowly that we were going to benefit financially. Fortunately, we are not impulsive people. When my MIL died, S was 8 and E was 5. We had started to think about the kids going to college. Over the next few years, we realized our kids were pretty smart. We were ambitious. So we planned and we made choices that fit our priorities.

        If I had to list our priorities, I would list them as:
        1. Our kids’ emotional and physical health (by this I mainly mean E and his autism/ADHD/giftedness/allergies),
        2. Paying off student loan and credit card debt and not holding other debts for very long (we have no debt other than our mortgages),
        3. Sending our kids to the college of their choice,
        4. Saving for retirement (sometimes tied with #3), and
        5. Traveling once a year for a week or two, first across the US and then to Europe once the kids got older

        Other people have other priorities, including sending their children to private schools, living in an expensive city, having a nice house, renovating a house, owning a vacation home, having household help, eating out at nice restaurants, and so on. For us, all these things get in the way of our priorities, so we don’t do them.

      12. “3. Get a better handle on your priorities. If college for your kids is one of them then act that way. ”

        Um, what Jay said.

        When I applied to colleges in HS, my dad asked me to apply to Harvard, which I was willing to do because HS Nemesis was applying to Yale, Brown, Princeton and Penn, and not the other Ivies, and he made me promise that if I got into Harvard I would go there and he would find a way to pay for it. (I didn’t get in.) But I did get into Cornell, and he paid for it (though I had scholarships and loans and earned other benefits).

        Anyway, I guess my dad set an example. The best college for me was his priority, and he acted that way.

        On the other hand, he did make a lot of dumb financial decisions. Maybe that was one of them. Too late!

      13. Maybe administrative bloat isn’t the reason that Princeton (or, with even less justification, Macalester) proposes to charge families $250,000 a child for a college degree, but that situation is not sustainable.

        I ran the Macalester NPC with various different sets of numbers for a putative family with two kids, 100-120K income (that is to say, median for a rich mid-Atlantic county and far above median for the country), with a decent house (price 350K in a mid-atlantic state with about $250K mortgage debt) and about $50K in college savings.

        All the permutations came out about the same. Namely, Macalester requires about $25-30K/year net contribution, with $8K or so from the student (loans and work) and the remainder from the parents. I assume that will go down when the younger one is in college. (I assumed a two year age difference.)

        So, they are charging upper middle class folks about $100-120K for this degree at most. Not entirely unreasonable and, more to the point, feasible if the parents made saving for college even a third or fourth priority.

        The most unreasonable thing about this, I thought, is that if I left all the numbers the same and changed “K-12 school expenses” from $0 to $20K the expected contribution went down by about $4K. I can’t think of a single reason why this should be the case. (Why should they offer more financial aid because you blew your money on an upscale school instead of a kitchen remodel?) This is just catering to a demographic that needs no catering to.

  2. A good, strong, well-researched piece, Laura.

    A couple of questions:

    Do universities have exclusive contracts or other direct financial relationships with these textbook companies? If the access codes are available only at the bookstore, then what sort of deal, if any, do bookstores and textbook companies have with each other? I guess I’m curious about whether universities are colluding with publishers in ways that don’t have students’ best interests at heart.

    (P.S. I greatly appreciated that you carefully characterized as “correlation” the McGraw-Hill guy’s conflation of “better grades” with “learning.”)

  3. You know what the consequence of textbook prices is? Students don’t get the textbooks, and so they do not do the reading. They get everything in Powerpoints in class.

    1. Wendy said:

      “You know what the consequence of textbook prices is? Students don’t get the textbooks, and so they do not do the reading. They get everything in Powerpoints in class.”

      Oooooh!

      1. Even back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and I was in college, there were some professors who made an effort to choose the cheaper of two textbooks when they were both acceptable. My wife tries to do that in her classes. It would be a good norm for academics to adopt, and would put pressure on the greedheads in the publishing houses.

    2. I’m teaching 3 classes this term, and I use a textbook for only one, which is my TV Studies class, and I’m using Jason Mittell’s TV and American Culture, which is getting a bit out-of-date in terms of examples and mostly doesn’t cover the streaming tv revolution. However, the bones of the book are quite good so I stick with it. I think only a handful of students have actually bought the book. I don’t do Powerpoints, so the end result is that they have no knowledge whatsoever about the topic I’ve been teaching. But that’s another story.

    3. That’s true. But, in general, even when they do have the textbook, if you provide enough on the powerpoint they don’t do the reading. A lot of rethinking to be done in curriculum and instruction?

      1. “A lot of rethinking to be done in curriculum and instruction?”

        Definitely. But it has to be a major culture change overall, and our growing realization about the ways students learn is at odds with the increasing outsourcing/digitization of education.

        I personally have some trouble because I teach skills-based classes (writing) and content-based classes (media studies, where I think they need to develop a particular vocabulary and understanding of key concepts) and more broad skills-based classes (interdisciplinary classes that require students to make connections among seemingly disparate disciplinary concepts). And we have a trimester system and are supposed to do all the things in 3 months.

  4. As a faculty member, I try to be conscious of textbook costs when choosing my materials, but this can be difficult. For instance, I used a free open source textbook for my Intro to American Politics class for a while, and that was great – all students had access from day 1, so there was no excuse. But that textbook, which was written in 2011-2012, used examples from the 2008 election. And it wasn’t updated because updating takes work. So it got harder and harder to justify using a text book that was so dated. In 2015, my 18 year old students using that text were 11 when the 2008 election took place – they didn’t even remember it. For a while, I worked with some others to explore sharing the work of updating a text like that (each of us would be responsible for updating a chapter), but that was a lot of work – work that wouldn’t count for anything at my institution. As such, I reluctantly went back to a publisher text book – I just didn’t have the time or bandwidth to do this on my own with no reward. I do try to be conscious of what my students pay and how they pay – so for instance, they do need to purchase an access code for my Intro Class, but I make sure they can buy it separately from a new text, and when they do, it’s $20. As Dave S. says, it’s incumbent on faculty to be at least conscious of this, but changing the system can’t be entirely on our backs. We need help and/or recognition from our administrations and the system as a whole.

  5. The homework and tests are graded by the platform? Are the tests written by the professors, or do professors or supervisors select tests with the click of a button? If grading is being done by a service the students are paying for, isn’t that outsourcing a part of the traditional responsibilities of a college professor?

    What if the colleges were responsible for providing such online access, rather than farming the expense out to students?

      1. It’s a matter of continual regret to me that Mitch Daniels is not President of the US. However, he decided not to grab for the brass ring and he is President of Purdue, where he is looking hard for economies he can make available to his students

        Yeah, he is lowering on-campus tuition by buying the corrupt Kaplan universities and using that as a “revenue stream.” What a hero. But, more to the point, not easily replicated. There are only so many Kaplans and Phoenixes to go around.

        Why doesn’t he just fill one of the dorms with escorts and run a call-girl service out of it. That is a “revenue stream” as well and I’ll bet he could lower the tuition even more. What a hero…

    1. That was my thought. Textbook prices are one thing. Having kids pay for grading twice (tuition and the code) is another, less defensible thing.

    2. That the code isn’t included as part of tuition is what drives me nuts. It’s not a book, you lose access to it when you aren’t enrolled in the course, and you have to buy it again if you take the course again. It’s not an extra you buy and keep. Codes need to be rolled into the cost of tuition. Doing so would force course leaders to think about the cost because in that model, the department would have to have a budget for those codes that they oversee.

      Makes me wonder (and I never thought about it as a student) — how are supplies for lab classes handled? If a school offers a bio class, to they charge an extra lab fee with that course?

      1. I believe some classes do have supply or lab or other fees. S was originally signed up for an outdoor yoga PE class her first term (dropped it because marching band meets the PE requirement) and there was a $175 fee involved in the class. Not sure for what, but it doesn’t matter now.

  6. Something you don’t emphasize in the piece. The truth is that some professors make a huge income from textbooks on top of their salaries (not in philosophy, we’re too small, but in Psych, Soc, Econ, Chem, Phys, etc). It’s understood that royalties just go to the professor not their institution. Doesn’t that seem odd? My institution pays me to do research and teach, Why should the work I am paid to do generate further income for me? It might be one thing if, as with patents, the university would strike a deal with me to create incentives for me to generate revenue for the institution. But with royalties — nothing. And textbooks are typically generated through course preparation (the only textbook I have written, which is quite good, is my written up lecture notes, which is among the many reasons I don’t assign it to my own students! (I do provide them with pdfs of key chapters).

  7. I recently heard a statistic that folks are willing to pay 10% of their income for an independent K-12 school, and after that, the price becomes questionable. In our neck of the woods, we’ve seen independent school tuition go from about 17K to 35K in the last fifteen years. Salaries, of, say, professional families have not, in general, seen that kind of increase. In 2003, a professional family with two tenured professors at the U, might reasonably make 180-250K (without any special perks of clinical practice income, . . . .). That meant that an independent school was in reach for that family, for one child. At 35K that’s no longer in the rule of thumb budget, and potentially not in a real budget.

    College is different, though; I think people are perfectly willing to pay for the super elite privates and those schools need to continue to be thought of as super elite to be viable at all. Decreasing tuition will do them no good in filling spots, only being so desirable that everyone wants to come there, even if it hurts financially, does. So they have no incentive whatsoever to decrease costs. They have incentives to produce programs like NYU Abu Dhabi that might expand their brand. I think the economic question about colleges is what will happen to every school that isn’t in the super elite, and how schools that are a notch below (and mind you, I hear people questioning whether Brown is a real Ivy, so where that level is drawn is quite variable) will try to engineer themselves into the elite (NYU has done a fairly good job of increasing its profile).

    Those colleges expect people who make 250K to be saving 10% a year for their children’s college education, from the time they are born, to amass the 280K in tuition they’ll pay.

    1. bj,

      Very good points.

      Our family is going to be paying over 20% of household income for three private school tuitions starting this summer, and it definitely feels like the red zone. Our disposable income has shrunk radically, we’re not saving for college (or really anything else) anymore, and emergency savings are very low 4-digits. (Normally, I think a family of our size and with our burn rate ought to have a minimum of $10k in emergency savings and we used to, but we don’t now.)

      At some point, we realized that we can’t (as we thought we could) afford Out-of-Town State U. The two older children have to go to Hometown U, and they need to live at home.

      This is our oldest’s 11th year at this PK-12 school. I think our middle child could do fine elsewhere, but the youngest is clearly going to need the extra TLC of a small school, small classes and a single school for all grades.

      The things we have going for us are:

      a) I can earn something (not a lot though)
      b) this is only for 2.5 years
      c) college will be a lot cheaper for us than K-12
      d) we can encourage the kids to work in college

      But we’re looking at at least one more really lousy year. At least financially–I’ve had lots of free time with the youngest in school three days a week, and I keep up very nicely with school paperwork and school and social obligations, which hasn’t always been the case, and everybody is doing well. It’s both the best of times and the worst of times.

  8. I have been very disappointed that the digital revolution didn’t go the way I thought it would. I really did think that divorcing the information from the printing of it would make textbooks cheaper, but instead, in the institution, it’s resulted in the codes/licenses/etc. that Laura describes in the article. I do think part of the problem is an institutional failure — with no incentive to decrease these costs, there’s self-dealing at the university (and by the profs who make money off of the agreements). I’d be intrigued to hear how these codes/licensed texts play out in more cost-sensitive (i.e. public universities) v private. My guess is the phenomenon is worse at public schools, where the fees/codes allow differential pricing of courses and there’s an incentive to hide costs (rather than wrapping everything into the cost of high tuition). And, it’s an unpredictable cost of attending, since you can’t know what the costs of materials for individual courses will be before you enroll, and even if you knew, you wouldn’t know what classes you’d be taking from year to year.

  9. Hi Laura — longtime lurker; I teach law. This spring I teach Property law, a field that only changes slowly. The latest casebook (c 2017) cost about $200: the previous version, from about three years before, was going for as little as $10 on Amazon. So I assigned the previous version, saving my students a bundle and interfering with my teaching not at all. I should also note that some law professors have begun putting together their own case books and providing them to students for far less than charged by academic publishers. Now, it’s easier to do this with a casebook, as a lot of the material is cases and so public domain, but it’s still appalling that we so blithely assign students such expensive materials.

  10. I’d add that our administration at least exerts heavy moral pressure on us to keep book costs low, and to beat that in mind when desiging curriculum. And one cost that has gone away is the course packet — mine used to cost upwards of $50, and now I can provide everything that used to be in the course packet online for free.

    Thanks y81. Not sure I am arguing against my class interests, really. I do want higher ed to thrive. I think that faculty governance (at least in its more extreme forms) is to the detriment of the institution! And that we should be expected to teach more and better, and supported in learning how to teach better.. But that can replace other activities, so I’m not saying we necessarily should do more work, just more useful work. And I can ell you teaching reasonably well is a hell of a lot more rewarding than teaching less than reasonably well…..

    1. Teaching more would cause my teaching to suffer. And Harry, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on faculty governance. I’m at an institution where faculty have the final say on everything and I firmly believe it’s the only thing that has allowed us to maintain our liberal arts curriculum.

  11. Whether teaching more would make your teaching suffer depends how much you teach! We have a standard 2-2 load, and I find I can do 2-3 fine. If I did more than that something would have to give, but I do plenty more than teach, and some of that could go. (IEg, I do a lot less refereeing than I used to, quite deliberately so I can have more time for students). In 1970 the load was 3-3; in many departments at institutions like mine the actual (as opposed to nominal) load has halved in the past 50 years.

    On faculty governance…. There’s too much to say, and I’m pressed for time. Basically, my observation is that faculty are extremely conservative, and I have seen a lot of good ideas ultimately dismissed by administrators because they (in nearly every case I think rightly) have judged that they can’t get it past faculty. Some things — like systematic professional development in instruction — simply don’t happen, because faculty are/would be opposed to them. I know — faculty also block bad ideas. And I wouldn’t want faculty to have no say. Just less than they currently do at my institution.

  12. 2/2? Ha ha ha ha. When I started I taught a 4/4, half of which was composition. We always tried to keep book costs low—around $70 or so. At our institution, labor costs are driving tuition increases, specifically high healthcare costs. Universal healthcare would make a huge difference! Our discount rate is 45% and hardly any student pays full rate. While faculty have been cut and haven’t had a raise in 8 years, no admins have been cut. I would also say some unfounded mandates from govt impose some costs—we have to comply but don’t get more aid. There is definitely more than one factor driving tuition.

    1. Yeah, if you’re at a 2-2 place you could certainly teach more. I have a 3-3, though sometimes I have only two preps; this semester I’m doing an extra elective, so I have four preps, This is partly because it’s outside the department and new and interesting (and displays our discipline’s value!), and partly so that my low-enrolled courses – an across-the-board-problem here now due to serious enrollment declines overall – don’t count against me.

      At my state university, almost everyone I know takes textbook cost reduction seriously. In lower-level courses I always put the textbook on reserve so that students can read it at the library, and there’s only one $10 book I require them to use in class. (Even then I’ve tracked down ILL copies or just bought extra copies to discreetly loan out to students who can’t afford it.) I’ve never used anything that requires an access code – seems like it’s mainly a math/science thing – but several publishers send emails asking me to check out automated essay grading, etc. I firmly resist these things, but at some point I’m sure they will be used to justify cutting staff.

      We have terrible problems with students unable to pass our remedial math course, and computerized assistance is one thing that might help them. These companies push hard to make the case that online work actually benefits the students, and I imagine it might – at least it’s worthwhile for my colleagues in other fields to investigate and make a call on. It doesn’t seem crazy to me that a $100 or $200 textbook+code might genuinely work better.

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