Approved by the: Student Senate November 29, 2007
Administration - February 25, 2008*
Board of Regents - no action required

* The University of Minnesota supports efforts to help reduce textbook costs for students. Consequently, the recommendations in this resolution are being referred to the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost and the Vice President for University Services or their delegates for consideration and possible implementation.

Resolution on System-wide Course Book Cost Reform

Whereas, course book prices have risen at twice the rate of annual inflation over the last two decades, and

Whereas, the average estimated cost of books and supplies for full-time students is $898 per academic year, and

Whereas, at least one University of Minnesota department has been successful in negotiating with publishers to reduce textbook costs, and

Whereas, many professors are not currently aware of the different measures that can be taken to decrease student book costs without hurting course quality or compromising academic freedom, and therefore:

Be it resolved that the Student Senate supports the promotion of lowering class book costs, and

Be it further resolved that the Student Senate supports ongoing programs to negotiate with textbook publishers, especially related to high enrollment courses, and

Be it further resolved that the Student Senate supports the implementation on a system-wide basis of the Best Practices on Reducing Textbook Costs written by the Textbook Cost Containment Review Committee at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus.

COMMENT:

This resolution was approved by the Minnesota Student Association in October 2007 and is being brought to the Student Senate for system-wide approval.  Following is the accompanying best practices guidelines.

Best Practices on Reducing Textbook Costs

The faculty must play a front line role in controlling textbook costs.  This can be accomplished by considering cost, along with textbook quality and ancillary features, from the very beginning of the adoption process.  The Best Practices outlined below can significantly lower the costs of textbooks to students.  Most notably, faculty should work with the Bookstore to encourage price competition between publishers and to leverage the University's substantial buying power into cost reductions for students.

Best Practice #1:

Faculty should consider cost in addition to quality and other features when selecting textbooks

When selecting books, faculty should consider cost as an important factor from the beginning of the book selection process.  Faculty should select books that deliver high quality course material at a reasonable cost to students.  In some cases, textbooks with adequate illustrations should be selected over texts with superb graphics that cost more.  Before choosing a book, faculty should weigh the instructional value of ancillary material provided for the instructor; for example: a CD containing the book's illustrations is useful, but a CD with pre-prepared PowerPoint lectures is superfluous.

Best Practice #2:  

Negotiate with publishers for textbook costs

Faculty can have a significant impact on textbook costs through negotiations with publishers; this strategy can be particularly useful in large-enrollment courses.  The University of Minnesota has some of the largest textbook accounts in the country and should use our buying power to negotiate lower prices.  Highly successful negotiations have recently taken place in chemistry and technical writing/rhetoric, and the University Bookstore is prepared to dedicate a staff member to working exclusively on such negotiations if and when the demand increases.  Departments and DUGS should help instructors reach a consensus on common text(s) for courses and to agree to use that text for an extended length of time.  It is also recommended that during negotiations a firm price is set: "no price, no adoption." 

Best Practice #3:

Raise awareness of why textbook costs are relevant and timely for faculty, and improve communication and processes through use of Directors of Undergraduate Studies

Some faculty members do not understand the implications of their textbook choices, and may not have been as informed as they have at the Department Chair level.  We recommend that textbook selection decisions become the oversight of the DUGS to be certain that faculty have considered cost during the selection process.  We expect departments to report to DUGS on their textbook selection process, whether other books were considered, whether they attempted to negotiate, and ultimately why a particular textbook was chosen.  Members of this task force will meet with each college's DUGS during early Fall 2007 to share relevant data on textbook cost. 

Best Practice #4:

Place textbook orders on time

The simplest way to impart change on textbook costs is to place orders on time with the University Bookstore.  This is particularly relevant for large courses, the texts for which are often known early.  We recommend that the Bookstore send periodic notices to the DUGS contacts detailing what percentage of their orders have been placed.  On-time orders should be an expectation. 

Best Practice #5:

Use packing/bundling only when it provides a cost benefit for students

Although some packaging of multiple books can provide a cost benefit for students, many times it does not – particularly if it involves books/items that are not necessary for the course.  We recommend that the Bookstore (and this task force) develop a set of guidelines for faculty and departments to consider regarding bundling. 

Best Practice #6:

Place textbooks on reserve in library

The library is happy to assist in placing textbooks on reserve.  Although it has not been found that this service is used frequently, it can be helpful in instances in which students have chosen to share a text with a classmate or are opting not to purchase a non-essential text.  Reference books especially should be placed on reserve in the library, not required for purchase.

Best Practice #7:

Course packet containment

Although not a "textbook" cost, the cost of course packets for students contribute greatly to their overall costs each term.  Faculty members should work with the University Libraries to determine whether the University has electronic subscriptions to any of the articles included in the course packet.  With University subscriptions, students would be able to link to the article for free instead of paying for royalties. 

Best Practice #8:

Refrain from always using new editions

Constant use of new textbook editions increases text costs for students both in terms of the purchase of new textbooks and the decreased value for used books that are sold back to the Bookstore.  We recommend that faculty allow the use of old editions and indicate the appropriate page numbers for multiple editions in their syllabi.  The Bookstore also needs to be notified when faculty members will be using/allowing older editions, so they know those editions can be bought back at the end of the previous term. 

Best Practice #9:

Communicate with students regarding textbook usage and cost

Faculty members can help students understand the textbook choices they have made and the cost implications of such.  We recommend that a significant part of a required textbook be necessary for the course, as well as that faculty take time on the first day of class to explain what each book is used for and why each book/piece is required.

RONALD MILLER, CHAIR
STUDENT SENATE CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE


Return to Senate Resolutions Page