During our #textbookbroke initiative on campus, we created a survey to determine our student’s thoughts on the issues, hoping to gain more insight into how much students were currently spending on textbooks and ways to help alleviate any potential financial strain. Our survey consisted of the following questions:
- Are you a student/alumnus at FSU?
- What is your highest level of education?
- Estimate how much you spent on textbooks last semester.
- Would you use an online textbook if it was free?
- Would a $30 print textbook help reduce any financial strain?
- Have you ever not purchased a required textbook due to cost? If so, what college/department was the textbook for?
- Have you ever decided not to take a course due to the cost of the textbook? If so, what college/department was the textbook for?
Of the 346 survey participants, 343 were current students or alumnus of the university, and the majority (n=233) had taken some undergraduate courses. Students spent an average of $360 on textbooks the previous semester, ranging from $0 to $2000. Respondents with the highest amount of spending reported the following majors as having the most expensive textbooks in one semester: Biology, Chemistry, and Nursing.
One focus of our investigation was determining how students perceived the benefits of using OER resources from OpenStax. We used the questions, “Would you use an online textbook if it was free?” and “Would a $30 print textbook help reduce any financial strain?” to discover if students would consider OpenStax’s online textbook alternative and $30 print versions. Results showed that 93.37% of participants would use an online textbook if it was free and 97.40% identified that a $30 print textbook would reduce financial strain. This information supports our suggestion for the university to adapt an OpenStax textbook model and provided us with data that we could present to university administration and instructors.
Our final inquiries examined if students were not purchasing required textbooks for their classes, or if they were avoiding classes because of the textbook’s cost. The survey revealed that only 11% of the respondents decided not to take a course due to the cost of the textbook. Additionally, the survey uncovered that 72% of students have not purchased a required textbook due to the cost. This number exceeds the 66.6% of students who reported that they did not purchase a required textbook in a Florida Virtual Campus survey conducted in 2016 (FLVC, 2016). This data supports the growing need of open and affordable textbook options on our campus and we look forward to continuing our work to support our students.