Over the past three decades, textbook prices have increased at nearly three times the rate of inflation. This has resulted in a significant financial strain on students, forcing many to forego essential course materials or take on substantial debt to acquire them.
The UWM Libraries are actively involved in addressing textbook affordability concerns for students and have undertaken a multi-faceted approach that involves both open and fee-based resources.
This academic year, the Libraries are piloting a new project, eCAT (electronic Course Adopted Texts), that provides access to faculty-assigned course materials for UWM classes. Although designed to address the soaring cost of textbooks, the project also covers other course materials, including novels, anthologies, academic books, and foreign language material.
The Collection & Resource Management Division (CRM), which manages the project, has acquired over 150 titles and identified almost 100 additional titles already in the Libraries’ collections, that were assigned for Fall 2023. Librarians contacted faculty about the project and encouraged them to link to these resources in Canvas.
Chris Doll, Library Associate Director for CRM, says that the faculty response has been overwhelmingly positive, “ranging from gratitude for all the money the project is saving students, to relief because they were considering changing their textbook due to the high cost but were reluctant to do so because it was the perfect resource.”
Faculty also expressed appreciation knowing that all students had access to the assigned course material from day one, thus making learning more equitable, Doll says.
In total, the pilot program impacts 15% or 185 of the courses offered by the university, ensuring that 5,695 students had access to their assigned course materials on the first day of classes, and savings those students an estimated $279,000.
The purchased texts are available to all students, faculty and staff, and will be accessible through the LIbraries’ website in perpetuity.
CRM will conduct a survey of students later this fall to assess the program’s effectiveness.