Textbook costs are a growing burden for community college students, writes Eric Frank, president and co-founder of Flat World Knowledge, Inc., on the College Affordability blog.
Most community colleges have held down tuition increases in the last decade, according to a recent study (pdf). Yet textbook prices increased 22 percent over the last four years, quadruple the inflation rate, Frank writes. As a result, many students are not buying the books they need, surveys have found.
Some policy makers are trying to innovate. California will fund the creation of 50 free online college textbooks. Washington State’s Open Course Library offering community-college students affordable online resources.
However, the textbook industry resists change, Frank writes. As sales go down, publishers “raise prices and revise editions faster to flush out used books.”
Disruptive new business models have emerged to change the economics of the $8 billion college textbook business. Educational entrepreneurs with new ideas and technology innovations are offering students a variety of alternatives to high-priced, static course materials.
Options range from textbook rentals to digital textbooks to the more transformative open textbook model, which gives students free, unlimited access to their texts online, and allows instructors to edit the content to match the learning outcomes of their course.
Open textbooks, part of the growing open educational resources (OER) movement, is an easy way to drive down costs and reach under-served students.
Textbook costs must be part of the national conversation on college costs, Frank writes.