Faculty and Student Senators Councils Workgroup on Reducing the Cost of Course Materials: Summary Report, Spring 2012
Workgroup Purpose: To develop collaborative student faculty strategies to address the problem of the high cost of course materials for students
Background: Students pay as much as $500-$600 per year for course materials. The greatest cost is for text books. Text books are very expensive at the NYU bookstores, however, reimbursement for used books from the book store is very low ($4-5 for a $40-50 text) The bookstore resells these same used books for high prices.
Students search for lower cost alternatives such as Amazon that cost 20-30% less than the bookstore. Some students have set up their own book exchanges where prices are lowe.r Other read text books in the library ( limited access) or book store (inconvenient).
Assumptions: Technology is dramatically changing access to written materials thus costs in the future may be different.
The Workgroup identified the following questions:
- What, if any, policies exist at NYU schools about costs of course materials? How do faculty select vendors for texts (ie what bookstores)?
- How do NYU faculty make decisions about what texts to order?. Do they have information on cost and explore lowest cost options?
- How are other universities/students responding to this issue-public and private, local and national?
- How is the publishing industry addressing the changing climate of information technology? What is the evolving business model? (current model of bring out new additions frequently when there is little new information adds to cost).
Review of the available literature largely in the Chronicle of higher Education identified the following strategies used in other university settings:
- Textbook rental
- Open access online
- Increase text book availability in library
- Negotiate with publishers re costs of texts given volume of sales
- Increase information on comparative cost options for require texts for faculty and students
Review of NYU policies and practices:
- Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs, Dr. Ryan Poynter and Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Matthew S. Santirocco informed the workgroup that there are no specific NYU wide policies and practices regarding cost of course materials. Some schools have given greater attention to the issue than others. Some professors do provide information to students on lower cost electronic versions of texts.
- They advised a meeting with NYU Bookstore Director Phil Christopher.
Issues discussed at meeting with Phil Christopher, NYU Bookstore Director, April 26, 2012:
- Buy back of student books: The NYU bookstore buys texts books back from students and sells them in the store or nationally through commercial companies. Buy back occurs in May at the end of the school year. The bookstore will pay 50% of the original cost to the student IF the book is being used again the next year. However, most books are not ordered by faculty until the beginning of the new semester thus the bookstore cannot offer 50% but only what they would get in the commercial market which may be 5% or nothing.The issue of faculty choosing texts in a timely manner seems to differ by schools. Some schools just don’t change course materials that often and some are more organized and require their faculty to post their course reading in advance. Right now the book store knows about 1,500 titles they will need for the fall out of a total of 8,500-9,000 that will eventually be ordered.Students can sell their books on the wholesale market but the price is much lower (15-20% for a book in high demand).
- Textbook rental: Many text books are available on line especially over the last 4 years and the bookstore can help access them. Students can rent books for as little as 25 days (which lowers the cost. New books can be rented but cost slightly more. This market has exploded in the last 1 ½ years. This fall students will be able to rent books off the shelf as well. 60-80% of books can be rented this way and it generally costs less than on-line rental. The used book market is really a form of renting. The library can rent books if the faculty requests it.
- How bookstore can help faculty: Faculty notify BS about materials for their course(s). The bookstore will provide as many options (cost-wise) as are available.
- How bookstore can help students: Part of the bookstore’s job is to provide information for students. Once the student has registered for a course the bookstore will know what materials are required and can provide information to the student about the various price options. Those options include electronic books, book rental, prices from various companies including Amazon, Course mark, Café Scribe. They can email student to provide this information or provide it when the student visits the book store by swiping the student’s ID. The student can visit the bookstore web-site (new software being installed for the fall (BRBA). Student gives course number and all of the options for materials will be displayed with costs.
- E-text books: This is like electronic rental for 180 days but for some you can download all or parts and keep forever. This changes the price.
- Custom books: these are order by faculty- and include only those parts of books or other materials the faculty selects- costs may be lower or not.
- Unbound loose-leaf versions of books: are also available and may cost 30% or less than original bound editions.
Draft Faculty Best Practices:
- Find out the cost of the materials you require for your course
- See if publisher offers and electronic version for less
- See if Amazon offers the material for less
- When new additions of a textbook are published assess changes from the current version to
see if they are significant enough to warrant requiring the new version
- Order textbooks for the Fall semester at the end on the Spring semester to allow students
the opportunity to by used texts from their fellow students
The workgroup will reconvene in the fall to carry out the following activities:
- Meet with representatives from NYU Libraries
- Review findings and recommendations with NYU Provost office
- Meet with Faculty Resources to formalize and disseminate Faculty Best Practices to reduce
the student cost for course materials.
In December, the FSC Teaching Excellence Committee met with Senior Vice Provost Ron Robin, administrative liaison to the Teaching Excellence Committee, and Debra Szybinski, the Executive Director of the Office of Faculty Resources, regarding the programs and initiatives of the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), which is part of the Office of Faculty Resources. During the course of the meeting it was learned that the CTE currently has no formal mechanism for systematic input from faculty regarding the programs and plans for the CTE, but both Vice Provost Robin and Executive Director Szybinski welcomed the idea of such input. The FSC has a long history of support and collaboration with the Center for Teaching Excellence and wishes to resume and strengthen that collaboration and also supports the importance of student consultation and feedback regarding the programs and initiatives of the Center for Teaching Excellence.
At the December 15, 2011 FSC meeting, the Council approved a resolution regarding the creation of an advisory committee to the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE). Nancy Van Devanter will now act as the FSC advisor to the CTE in 2012-13.