Report: Make Higher Education Affordable

Covering the Cost

Released by: U.S. PIRG

Over the last decade, the price of college textbooks has soared. Since 2006, the cost of a college textbook increased by 73% - over four times the rate of inflation. Today, individual textbooks often cost over $200, sometimes as high as $400.

That’s why, more than a decade ago, the Student PIRGs launched our campaign for textbook affordability to call attention to high prices and to highlight potential solutions to the problem.

However, no research to date — including our own — has attempted to investigate the degree at which prices actually affect student’s financial standing and behavior. This report aims to fill that gap, and make the case for urgent action around high textbook prices.

Key Findings from the Report:

  • Almost one-third (30%) of students replied that they had used financial aid to pay for their textbooks.
  • For those that used financial aid, the amount of financial aid dollars they put toward purchasing textbooks was more than $300 on average per semester.
  • Textbook prices disproportionately impact community college students: 50% of students report using financial aid for books at community colleges, compared to 28% at 4 year public schools. And, on average, community college students use more financial aid than their peers at 4 year schools.

That means that nearly 5.2 million U.S. undergraduate students spend a total of $1.5 billion dollars of financial aid on textbooks every semester, or $3 billion per year.
The report discusses potential solutions, and lays out recommendations for decision-makers on all levels.

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