The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) has made it easier for students to find textbook pricing information, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). However, the report also found that costs continue to rise at an average of 6% per year.
The study was required by the HEOA to show what steps textbook publishers, campus bookstores, and faculty members were making to enhance students’ choice and knowledge about the books they were buying. It found that used, digital, and rental textbook provide lower-cost options, but also that the price of new printed textbooks often drives the cost of other items.
The GAO reported that all publishers in the study use their web sites to provide their pricing of textbooks for bookstores and direct to consumers, and faculty members are more conscious about pricing when assigning the material. The report also stated publishers are making their bundled materials available for individual sale, but components are not always the lowest-priced option and students may have limited choices when it comes to buying unbundled materials.
The agency found 81% of colleges and universities disclose lists of assigned textbooks for each course, including ISBNs and retail price, and nearly 93% of the schools made that information available in public areas that did not require a password.
“While we are pleased that publishers and schools are complying with federal transparency requirements, more needs to be done to provide more affordable textbook options,” wrote Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) in a joint statement. “As the GAO report suggests, transparency alone isn’t enough.”