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Steps faculty can take

1. List Course Materials in CAESAR by the first day of registration

Assist student planning by having course materials listed in CAESAR at the time of registration. Doing so is required by law under the 2008 Higher Education Act.

  • List all editions of a textbook that are acceptable. Permitting the use of different editions may reduce costs for students.
  • If a course requires materials other than textbooks (such as access codes, software, supplies, etc.) include this information in the course description. Consider ways to defray or reduce those costs wherever possible. If such items are available on loan by the department, include this in the description. 
  • Rather than ask students to purchase a book of which they will only read a fraction, take advantage of fair use policies by scanning the necessary text and posting it on Canvas. 
  • If all materials will be provided at no charge on Canvas, this should be stated in CAESAR. 

2. Place textbooks on Library Reserve

The Library Reserve System is available to all faculty to place course materials on reserve. Instructions for placing materials on Reserve can be found at libraries/nu/reserve. Librarians are also available to work with faculty and can be reached at or by calling 847-491-7681. Read more about Course Reserves.

3. Create alternatives to student-purchased course packets

Materials in course packets are often available digitally through library subscriptions or may fall under fair use policies. Library staff are available to assist in locating digital materials. Send an email to with your syllabi or reading list and the library will check e-reserves and library databases and send back links for available materials that can be added to your course Canvas site. Read more about course packets.

4. Place timely book orders

Informing the Bookstore that a text will be required in an upcoming quarter allows students to sell back books to the Bookstore, increasing the inventory of used books. When an order is submitted in spring for the coming year the Bookstore is able to draw on national inventory to secure used copies.


5. Use or create an Open Educational Resource

OER are high-quality teaching, learning, and research materials that are free for anyone to use and repurpose. Northwestern is a member of the Open Textbook Network, giving faculty access to the Open Textbook Library. Librarians with expertise in digital education resources are available for consultation and can be contacted at

Learn more about OER services and resources.

6. Attend a faculty workshop

Invite AIR representatives to meet with faculty in your department by contacting us at

Share these course cost reducing steps with others by downloading the handout: Faculty Actions to Reduce Course Costs.


Studies have shown that the high costs of course materials can create unequal learning experiences for students. Results from national surveys have estimated that 65% of students have decided against buying a textbook because of the cost.


United States Government Accountability Office. (2013). Figure 1: Estimated increases in new college textbook prices, college tuition and fees, and overall consumer price inflation, 2002 to 2012 [Graph]. In College textbooks: Students have greater access to textbook information. Washington DC.


textbook chart

Source: “2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey: Results and Findings,” Florida Virtual Campus Office of Distance Learning and Student Services. Full report at