Written by on October 30, 2018

Textbook Match: Decreasing Textbook Cost, Increasing Student Access and Inclusion

Libraries represent different things to different people, but at the core of their mission, they are a means by which people gain access to knowledge. That’s one reason Kennedy Library has implemented Textbook Match, a program designed to lower costs of course materials for students. Textbook prices have risen dramatically over time and research shows that the cost of course textbooks is a major factor in on-time graduation and student success. Textbook Match allows students to access certain assigned textbooks online for free, and has been increasingly successful in the last few years.

Textbook Match works like this: Kennedy Library compares a list of their eBooks against materials required by instructors at the beginning of the quarter. Next, instructors are informed if there is an eBook copy of their assigned textbook and asked to notify their students about this option. If an eBook is available, students can simply access the book through the library website.

“I like Textbook Match. As a resource it evens the playing field a little bit,” said Mechanical Engineering undergrad Kyle Kreitzman. “Some textbooks cost hundreds of dollars, and some people just don’t have the money. PDFs have made my college experience more realistic.”

The Textbook Match program saved students a staggering $292,400 in 2014, its first year. In the following two years, those savings increased by more than four times. Last year, 2017-2018, Kennedy Library provided eTextbooks to 12,300 students. This translates to student savings of $1,223,000.

According to a recent study by Cengage, the largest provider of textbooks in the US, 85% of students report that textbook expenses are more financially stressful than food, healthcare, housing, and only slightly less stressful than tuition. Nearly half of students say they have skipped meals to save money for course materials, and minority students are disproportionally affected. Additionally, 81% of students report that access to digital course materials would have a positive impact on their grades.

Cal Poly is dedicated to inclusivity and bridging the gap for low-income and first-generation students. The increase in student use of Textbook Match at Cal Poly shows this initiative in action. With more availability, there is more use, and more positive impact on student success. “It’s more equitable for the school to have these textbooks on hand,” Kreitzman said. “It improves my learning environment tremendously.”

With the changing atmosphere of libraries and the strong integration of technology in the classroom, the Textbook Match program is a step towards the future. Kennedy Library is where graduate and undergraduate students alike go to master all disciplines, and where faculty and staff continue their own learning and offer resources to students. We’re proud that one of these resources is Textbook Match. The fusion of education and technology, whether considering the role of a library’s physical walls, it’s staff, or the services it offers, is changing all over the world, and Cal Poly is keeping apace.

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