When you enroll in college, the one expense that seems to annoy everyone without question is just how much your textbooks can cost. To make things worse, you’ll always have the classes that end up barely using the books, if at all! Sure, there are a few ways to get around it, like renting textbooks from your local library (and praying that it’s the up-to-date issue) or trying to find less expensive copies of the books online (and praying that they are still in stock and will arrive by midterms). You could even try to share your book with a classmate and see how fun that turns out! Still, with this such a common issue, you’d think that someone would have thought of an easier solution by now.
Some students are even skipping meals to afford books
According to Cengage News, Morning Consult, on behalf of Cengage, conducted national survey from July 11-13, 2018, using a national sample of 1,651 current and former students, aged from 18 to 30, in order to see just how textbook prices were stressing out the modern college student. 85% of current and former students say that their textbook and course material expenses are financially stressful. Using this, students were more stressed out by textbooks than things like meals and food (63%), healthcare (69%), housing (73%), and even tutition (88%).
In fact, almost half of current and former college students, at 43%, admitted to skipping meals in order to afford textbooks. That’s not all. Almost seven in 10 students report having to get a job during the school year to pay for college textbooks, with the same amount as those skipping meals taking out loans, and even 31% simply take less classes than they could at a time. Minority students. Minority students were especially impacted, specifically feeling the need to take less classes in order to keep up with the costs. In particular, African American students are also 35% more likely to save money for books by skipping a trip home.
The survey found that one option that students were interested in digital alternatives, with 81% of students agreeing that easily accessible digital course materials would even have a positive impact on their grades.
For some, these results could be a call to action. Michael Hansen, the CEO of Cengage, issued the following statements in response to the findings:
“The survey’s results should be a wake-up call for everybody involved in higher education. This is especially true for the publishing industry, including our own company, as we historically contributed to the problem of college affordability.”
“The data is clear: high textbook costs pose barriers to students’ ability to succeed in college. Too many learners today are making painful trade-offs between course materials and bare necessities like housing and meals. Our industry must embrace what students are telling us. That’s why our company has developed a new subscription model that lowers costs.”
What is Cengage trying to do?
Cengage offers a subscription called Cengage Unlimited, which can be purchased directly from Cengage, online or at campus and off-campus bookstores. Costing around $119.99 a semester or $179.99 a year, despite students spending as much as $579 on average each year on textbooks, the subscription aims to help students save money at this expense. Students might even be able to use financial aid to purchase a subscription. Students who sign up will essentially have access to a subscription service that offers unlimited access to thousands of online course materials.
We interviewed Michael Hansen in order to get a good look at what Cengage is trying to do for students
- Tell us more about what Cengage does?
“Cengage is the largest U.S.-based education and technology company serving the higher education market, providing course materials to students at affordable price points. We reach 11M students (of the 20 million) annually at nearly every higher education institution in the United States.”
- Why do you think textbooks have become such a financial issue in recent years?
“The price of textbooks rose year on year to counter the decline in unit sales. As publishers lost share to the used book market, pirating and other sources, they raised prices to make up for lost revenue, rather than focusing on affordability and quality.”
“Since the textbook industry’s business model hasn’t changed in more than 100 years, the time is ripe for a new approach to address affordability and access issues in U.S. higher education.”
“Why do you think students take such sacrifices, such as those described in the survey, for textbooks?”
“Students today – most of which are not ‘traditional’ students – are already juggling a lot – job, family, childcare. When they realize they need to pay for course materials, and then realize how much they can cost, something has to give.”
- What are the social and economic factors shaping textbook demand?
“Students are motivated by what they can afford and what will help them learn. Affordability of digital course materials is a big motivator – 72% say cost-effectiveness is very important when considering digital course materials.”
“And the majority of students (81%) think easily accessible digital course materials would have a positive impact on their grades.”
- What are some steps Cengage has planned to help students?
“We are taking bold action to transform our business model and, in the process, disrupt the entire industry to support quality learning for students. This week, we’re launching Cengage Unlimited, the first-of-its-kind subscription service that offers unlimited access to more than 20,000 digital course materials, including eBooks, online homework and study guides, for one price. Available to purchase directly from Cengage online or at campus and off-campus bookstores, a subscription costs $119.99 a semester or $179.99 a year.”
“Considering students spend, on average, about $579 annually (with some spending significantly more), the subscription can save students up to half of what they were paying and, in some cases, even more. It’s a simple idea that we think will revolutionize an outdated textbook industry.”
- What do you think the potential impact of Cengage’s plans will be?
“As of now, more than half of our revenues now come from digital, and it’s clear from the survey that students see digital as a way to improve learning. We believe that Cengage Unlimited will be a game changer for students and for our industry.”
- What are Cengage’s plans for the future?
“We’re focused on spreading the word about Cengage Unlimited as an affordable alternative to the traditional model of buying course materials. We’re also exploring how we can add more value to the Cengage Unlimited service through partnerships with other education providers. For example, Cengage Unlimited subscribers now can get access to services from Chegg, including tutoring.”