MADISON, Wis. – University of Wisconsin System students will benefit from a variety of measures to control textbook costs under a new policy being considered by the Board of Regents next week.

“Ensuring that textbooks are affordable for all students has been a high priority of the Board of Regents for many years,” said Regent President Charles Pruitt. “We look forward to reviewing this recommended policy, with the goal of putting into place long-term guidance that will help both UW campuses and students know what practical steps they can take to keep textbook costs as low as possible while maintaining the high-quality academic program for which the UW System is known.”

Universities across the country are grappling with this issue. According to national studies, the average estimated annual cost of college textbooks and supplies ranged from $1,098 to $1,122 in the 2009-10 academic year.

Costs can be considerably less with rental programs. At the 11 UW campuses that now offer textbook rental programs – including seven of the 13 four-year UW institutions and four of the UW Colleges – students paid from $133 to $180 during the 2009-10 academic year.

The policy being considered by the Regents next week calls on UW campuses to:

  • Develop a textbook calendar and “early adoption” program to enable students more time to shop for the best prices;
  • Publish the retail price of required course materials with course schedules;
  • Explore economically viable textbook rental programs for selected courses;
  • Encourage “unbundled” versions of textbook and course materials;
  • Use textbook editions for as long as possible, moving on to newer editions only when the educational content has substantially changed;
  • Allow e-textbook purchases; and
  • Encourage student-managed initiatives, such as textbook swaps.

“The policy I’m recommending to the Board strengthens and codifies the UW System’s ongoing efforts to protect students from rising textbook costs,” said President Kevin P. Reilly. “The UW System has been a leader in this area, and I’m confident the policy is both specific enough, and flexible enough, to maximize UW campuses’ success in helping students reduce out-of-pocket textbook expenses for the long term.”

The recommended policy will be considered first by the Board’s Education Committee on Thursday, June 10. If the policy is adopted by the full Board the next day, each UW institution would be responsible for local implementation procedures.

The policy was developed from preliminary guidelines adopted by the Regents last year. The guidelines and the new policy are the product of extensive consultation with UW faculty representatives, academic staff representatives, provosts, chief business officers, and Regents. The recommended policy will help UW campuses comply with provisions in the federal 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act that take effect next month.

A 2007 UW System report on textbook costs found that the most effective, cost-conscious approach will vary for each campus and involve multiple stakeholders, including faculty, bookstore managers, and student groups.

Media Contact

David Giroux UW System (608) 262-4464