August 23, 2011

7 in 10 Students Have Skipped Buying a Textbook Because of Its Cost, 
Survey Finds

By Molly Redden
For many students and their families, scraping together the money to 
pay for college is a big enough hurdle on its own. But a new survey 
has found that, once on a campus, many students are unwilling or 
unable to come up with more money to buy books-one of the very things 
that helps turn tuition dollars into academic success.

the <>survey, released 
on Tuesday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit 
consumer-advocacy organization, seven in 10 college students said 
they had not purchased a textbook at least once because they had 
found the price too high. Many more respondents said they had 
purchased a book whose price was driven up by common 
textbook-publishing practices, such as frequent new editions or 
bundling with other products.

"Students recognize that textbooks are essential to their education 
but have been pushed to the breaking point by skyrocketing costs," 
said Rich Williams, a higher-education advocate with the group, known 
as U.S. PIRG. "The alarming result of this survey underscores the 
urgent need for affordable solutions."

The survey, of 1,905 undergraduates on 13 campuses, including both 
large public universities and community colleges, does not measure 
the academic consequences for students who do not purchase textbooks, 
or predict which students are most likely to forgo buying books 
because of high prices. But 78 percent of those students who reported 
not buying a textbook said they expected to perform worse in that 
class, even though some borrowed or shared the textbook.

Publishing practices drove up costs for an even larger group of 
students. Eighty-one percent of all students also reported being 
negatively affected because a publisher had released a new edition of 
a certain textbook, eliminating the resale value of their used text, 
or preventing them from buying a used textbook.

"Bundling," the practice of packaging a textbook with CD's and 
passcodes that get lost or expire, also limiting resales, affected 59 
percent of respondents. Forty-eight percent of students reported that 
they had been hurt by required editions published exclusively for 
their college, which cut them off from the used-textbook market as 

Separate analyses from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group have 
found that textbook costs are typically comparable to 26 percent of 
tuition at state universities and 72 percent of tuition at community 

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