U.S. PIRG Issues Report on Impact of Textbooks on College Costs

on March 24, 2016

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) has issued a report, Covering the Cost, which examines the impact of textbook costs on college affordability.

The report found that the cost of college textbooks has a disproportionate impact on community college students, in part because textbook costs represent a greater percentage of the cost of attendance at lower-cost colleges. Half (50 percent) of students at community colleges use financial aid to pay for textbooks, compared to about a quarter (28 percent) of students at 4-year public colleges and about a fifth (22 percent) at 4-year private non-profit colleges. The challenge of paying for textbooks may be enough to cause some students to go without textbooks or to drop out of college.

The problem is getting worse because textbook prices have increased by 85 percent in the last 10 years. That’s faster than college tuition inflation and four times the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U). The growth in textbook prices is due, in part, to a lack of competition. Costs have also increased because of bundling of additional materials with textbooks, customized editions and the frequent release of new editions.

An estimated $3 billion a year in financial aid funding is used to pay for textbooks.

U.S. PIRG encourages colleges to use of open textbooks, which are available to students for free.

The U.S. PIRG report is based on a survey of 4,704 students from 132 colleges and universities in 25 states.

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