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Washington State University
Washington State University Office of the Provost

Task force lays groundwork for reducing classroom material costs

Because students cite financial struggles as their biggest barrier to academic success, WSU faculty, students, staff, and administrators are working together on solutions to reduce the cost of classroom materials at WSU.

The Course Materials Cost Reduction Presidential Task Force has been collaborating on a report soon to be submitted to the Interim President Dan Bernardo that will identify challenges and potential solutions for WSU students and faculty tackling the cost of books and other instructional materials. There are many nuances to this issue, but many opportunities exist to reduce costs for our students.

According to the Task Force, students suffer when:

  • They are told the textbook they purchased at the Bookie is not required for class, but instead is only recommended.
  • They are required to purchase a book that is not used in class, or is used only minimally.
  • They pay for a textbook when comparable free, online resources are available.
  • They purchase the newest edition of a textbook because it is required, but later are told that any edition (including cheaper, used editions) are sufficient.
  • They receive the minimum of $1 for selling back books because faculty teaching the course for the next term have not yet submitted a book order to the Bookie.

To help address these issues, the Task Force encourages faculty to consider the following steps in making classroom material decisions for future terms:

  • Leverage with publishers – Faculty can encourage publishers to unbundle support materials from the required text so that the two can be purchased separately.
  • Turn in book orders early – If the Bookie knows at buy-back time that the textbook will be used the next semester, students will receive a larger percentage of the original cost, rather than the minimum.
  • Avoid late changes – Many students purchase their materials in the weeks and months before classes begin. If the classroom textbook/material does change, faculty should use class lists to email students to ensure they are aware of any changes.
  • Communicate accurately with the Bookie – Clearly state to the Bookie what you will tell students on the first day of class about which materials are required.
  • Carefully consider new editions – Do not require the newest edition of textbooks unless it is necessary.
  • Required vs. Recommended – Communicate clearly to students why you have required the text, and how you expect student to use the resource through the semester.
  • Always put copies of your assigned materials on reserve – This ensures that students unable to purchase a book on time or who have misplaced their book will be able to keep up.

As open access to quality, online resources rapidly increases, WSU will be exploring ways to support faculty who want to make use of them. We look forward to reviewing the Task Force’s report when it becomes available.