Faculty Express Strong Interest in Affordable Access Programs at a Time of Deep Concern With Student Preparedness

NACS Faculty Watch Report:

OBERLIN, OHIO (February 17, 2024)— The latest Faculty Watch™ Report from the National Association of College Stores (NACS) confirms faculty interest in affordable access programs remains high as more institutions take action to lower textbook and course materials costs for students.

Affordable access programs, commonly known as Inclusive Access (IA) when offered on a course-by-course basis or Equitable Access (EA) when offered for all courses campus-wide, ensure students have access to all their required course materials on or before the first day of class at below retail prices with the choice to opt out of the programs. When surveying faculty who had not previously participated in an affordable access program, more than 70% of respondents expressed interest in IA programs and 75% of respondents indicated interest in EA programs.

The survey also assessed the biggest personal and professional challenges facing faculty members and found student preparedness remains a leading concern, which may explain the growing interest in affordable access programs. Forty percent of respondents ranked student preparedness among their top five biggest concerns, superseded only by concerns about student wellbeing (45%) and work responsibilities such as teaching load and research demands (41%).

“Faculty members’ concern about affordability has grown over the past three years,” said Lacey Wallace, OnCampus’ Research Analyst. “It’s not surprising that faculty express high interest in affordable access programs. These programs help lower costs and ensure that students have access to all their materials before classes start.”

Further, 63% of faculty view textbook affordability as a top priority for their institution, up from 57% in 2021 – a sentiment also expressed by students in the 2023 Student Watch ™ Report, which found nearly two-thirds (60%) of students expressed satisfaction with inclusive access programs, compared to only 16% dissatisfied. Over three-quarters (77%) of students who were pleased with inclusive access programs highlighted having access to their required materials by the first day of class as a leading perk of the program.

Faculty adoption of eTextbooks jumped to 68% in 2023, up from 37% in 2016. Faculty preference for print books with digital components declined slightly by 3% and preference for eTexts remained steady.

Other key findings from the report, which compiled responses from approximately 1,017 college faculty from 20 two- and four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada, include:

The top two areas where faculty wanted assistance from the college store were help with understanding affordability of course materials options (41% of faculty), and help learning about alternative course material models like inclusive access and open educational resources (OER) (also 41% of faculty).

Despite a 92% awareness of OER and more resources available, faculty use of OER remained steady at 39%, up one percent since 2020.

Print remains the most widely used course material format by faculty. In 2023, 72% of faculty used print materials.

Intent to use courseware or adaptive learning platforms in the coming year remained steady at just under 32%.

72% of faculty say they consider sustainability at least a little when choosing materials.

About 39% of faculty did not require materials for at least one of their courses. This is an increase from 30% last year, but consistent with 40% in 2020.

Faculty Watch™ is developed by OnCampus Research™, the research arm of the National Association of College Stores. Reporters interested in obtaining a copy of the report should email publicrelations@nacs.org.

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