Survey Reveals Impact of High Course Material Costs on Pennsylvania Students

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PENNSYLVANIA — Affordable Learning PA (ALPA) and the Partnership for Academic Library Collaboration and Innovation (PALCI) have released the results of a comprehensive survey on course material affordability in Pennsylvania for 2023. The study, conducted in collaboration with Bay View Analytics, reveals the significant impact of course material costs on students’ academic choices and success.

The Pennsylvania Course Materials Cost Survey collected responses from over 4,300 students across 14 institutions during the spring and fall of 2023. The study builds upon previous surveys conducted in Virginia and Florida but tailors its inquiry to address the unique challenges faced by Pennsylvania students.

Key Findings:

  • Widespread Concern Over Material Costs: Almost half of the surveyed students expressed moderate to extreme concern about course material costs.
  • Impact on Student Success: The high costs of course materials adversely affect students’ academic performance, with only 23% reporting no impact on their academic career.
  • Influence on Academic Choices: Many students reported that the cost of course materials significantly influences decisions about their institution, major, and minor.
  • Active Cost Reduction: A staggering 98% of students have attempted at least one method to cut course material costs.
  • Mixed Preferences: Students displayed diverse preferences for digital and print materials, with 40% preferring print, but 42% indicating their preference varies depending on the course or having no particular preference.

Elizabeth Nelson, a member of the Affordable Learning PA Steering Committee, noted, “These findings will help us better contextualize ongoing efforts to reduce costs for students and give faculty more control over course materials.”

Dr. Julia Seaman, co-lead researcher behind the survey, highlighted that “students everywhere are worried about their course material costs, but we found Pennsylvania students are more worried and have a lower proportion of their costs covered by financial aid.”

The full results and insights from the survey will be presented at an upcoming webinar on January 18, 2024.

The full report is available for download here.

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