College Costs II: The Publishing Empire Strikes Back

Duck of Minerva contributor PM is teaching a research methods class in the spring, and has been going through the inevitable struggle to select books:

"I was very happy to come across W. Phillips Shively’s The Craft of Political Research, which met every substantive criteria I had. It’s engaging, it reflects a broad range of research traditions (essential for my course, which includes students in IR, comparative, Americanist, public policy, and even normative theory), it’s short, it describes the theoretical and practical challenges of working with data, and it came blurbed from Chris Achen. I should point out that this is a slim paperback, with about 172 pp. including end matter.

"There’s just one problem. It costs $59.87."

Unlike steering students toward sensible choices in selecting—and sticking with—a major, which can be a struggle even in the best of times, this area is one in which faculty can have a direct, if relatively small, influence on reducing college costs. By consciously choosing lower-cost but high-quality textbooks, and taking advantage of free resources like OPOSSEM rather than relying on publisher ancillaries (the cost of which is passed on to students in higher textbook prices), we can help students succeed in college while exiting with a lesser debt load.

What did PM decide to do? The class will use a lower-priced book, and couple it with using R for statistical analysis rather than proprietary alternatives.