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TAP Information for Faculty

The Textbook Affordability Program (TAP) is a Swarthmore College program which supplies each registered Swarthmore student with $700 annual credit in the Swarthmore Campus & Community Store to support the student’s purchase of required course materials.

TAP Background

Faculty members and Dean’s staff noted an expanding “course materials gap” for all students, particularly for our lower-income students. Because Swarthmore College’s financial aid does not directly cover textbook purchases, many students struggled to pay for textbooks out of pocket or took out loans to acquire required course materials. As an alternative to paying for textbooks, students often borrowed them from the library’s reserve copies, shared books with classmates, or downloaded pirated copies. Some students simply did without textbooks entirely.

The College’s Textbook Affordability Committee (TAC), led by President Staff members Gregory Brown, Sarah Willie-LeBreton, and Jim Terhune, convened to study the problem of textbook expense beginning in spring 2016. The committee started by gathering both data and anecdotal evidence on the course materials challenges facing all Swarthmore students, and particularly aided students. 

The TAC presented their work to faculty members at a faculty lunch in March 2018 and used those faculty comments and questions to shape the ongoing project. 

The TAC determined that a textbook program should allow faculty members full control over the textbooks they require and not limit faculty to lower cost options or only to materials that are available in digital format. In addition, the committee felt that a textbook program should provide students a choice between a range of printed and digital formats and a range of price points. Ideally, students should be able to choose how to balance their expenditure according to their personal academic priorities and study patterns.

From the TAC’s findings, a pilot program (Textbook400) was designed to test the effects of a textbook credit on students. Textbook400 began in fall 2018 and ran for four semesters. When surveyed, Textbook400 students reported that Textbook400 made a difference in their academic lives. Students felt they were more academically successful because they were able to obtain the books they needed for class.

With the proven success of the Textbook400 pilot program, TAC recommended providing textbook credit for all enrolled students at the College, covered under their billed tuition. This recommendation, named the Textbook Affordability Program, was approved by the Board in February 2020, and took effect in August 2020. TAP‘s goal is to ensure that all students have the same opportunity to purchase materials at the start of each semester, and can begin preparing for their classes immediately, building the foundation for a successful course experience. 

TAP - Credit Information

  • Each registered Swarthmore student will receive $700 per academic year as credit in a special bookstore account. Credit for the full academic year is dispersed at the beginning of the fall semester.
  • Unspent TAP credit will carry over from fall to spring of the same academic year, but will not carry over to the next academic year. Any unused TAP bookstore credit at the end of the academic year will not be available to the student.
  • Course material expenses are still the responsibility of the student. Each student's Swarthmore College cost of attendance budget estimates $1,435 annually for academic supplies.  The $700 TAP credit is expected to help with the purchase of course materials, but is not intended to cover all of the student’s course materials expenses.  

What Is Covered with TAP Credit

  • The $700 credit can be used in the Store for one copy each of required course materials (textbooks) for the student’s registered classes.
  • Required course material is defined as follows: listed on syllabus as a requirement and essential to the course; assigned readings cover most of the text; discussed regularly in class; and material covered in exams & quizzes.
  • To be eligible for the TAP credit, the item must have been specified by the faculty member as required for the successful completion of the course, must be listed in the course syllabus as required for all students, and the faculty member must have adopted the title or item as required through the Store by the course materials deadline.
  • Required course materials can include items other than textbooks, such as language workbooks, some access codes, CS clickers, and certain other course-specific supplies (i.e. calculators, music staff paper, lab notebooks), if required by the faculty member as specified above, and if available through the Store’s wholesale vendors. If using the faculty member's personalized Verba link to submit book orders, please use the Add Materials tab for any required non-textbook materials. Alternately, please email a complete description of the item to Textbook Manager Erica Considine. (For fall 2021, email interim Textbook Manager Nikki Hernandez at [email protected]).
  • The TAP credit may be used towards the purchase of new or used print textbooks, and for textbook rentals. The TAP fund also can be used to purchase digital books, eBooks and access codes provided through the Store.
  • Beginning with Fall 2021, students can also use their TAP credit to purchase recommended and optional course materials (textbooks) that have been adopted by the course materials deadline.
  • Recommended and optional course materials (textbooks) are not stocked on the Store's shelves. Recommended and optional course materials (textbooks) must still be submitted for adoption by faculty, so that they can be listed on the website for online orders. Students will need to place a special order online at store.swarthmore.edu for the recommended or optional course material. Once the online order is placed by the student, Store staff will order the course material (textbooks). Special orders take an average of 3-7 days to arrive. Note that the Store cannot order books that are out of print or out of stock at the publisher.
  • TAP funds can be used for online purchases through the Store’s website as well as purchases in the Store. Online purchases can be picked up in the Store for no charge. Shipping costs are the students responsibility and are not covered with TAP funds. 
  • If the Store is sold out of a textbook, the student may place a special order online at store.swarthmore.edu. Students may use their TAP credit to prepay the special order. Most special orders arrive in the Store within 3 to 7 days. Note that the Store will not be able to special order books that are out of print or out of stock at the publisher.
  • TAP funds may also be used to pay for required course materials for Tri-Co courses, including courses at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Tri-Co Philly. In some cases, students can use TAP funds to special order course materials for courses taken elsewhere, such as at UPenn or during Off-Campus Study. For full details, see TAP Information for Students.
  • Thesis, Capstone, Independent Study, and Direct Reading course materials are now all eligible to be purchased with TAP funds. Thesis, Capstone, Independent Study, and Direct Reading course materials will be handled as a special order. The faculty member should email a detailed list of the course materials (textbooks) to [email protected] Alternatively, the student may email the detailed list with a copy to the faculty member, in which case the faculty member must reply to the email with their approval of the book list provided by the student. An emailed list from a student constitutes a special order and an agreement to pay for the ordered materials by TAP funds and/or by personal tender. Once the order has been approved by the faculty member, Store staff will place the order. Special orders take an average of 3 to 7 day to arrive. Note that the Store cannot order books that are out of print or out of stock at the publisher. 

What Is Not Covered with TAP Credit

  • TAP funds can not be used for RedShelf or other e-commerce digital titles if purchased by the student directly through Moodle. If requested by the faculty member, the Store will try to carry print copies of those titles as an alternative for students who wish to use their TAP funds.
  • TAP funds can not be used for direct publisher subscriptions that are not purchased through the bookstore, such as Cengage Unlimited, McGraw Hill Connect, and Pearson Revel.
  • General school supplies such as binders, spiral notebooks, lined paper, graph paper, and pens may not be purchased with the TAP credit.  For specific school supplies that are required for all students taking a particular course (i.e. specific lab notebook required for a lab course), see above regarding Required Course Materials.

Required Digital Textbooks Available through the Store and/or the Swarthmore College Libraries

  • The Store will provide required course materials in a digital format whenever possible.  Students can use their TAP funds to purchase those digital materials.
  • The Store shares its faculty textbook adoption list of required course material with the Swarthmore College Libraries. The Libraries will attempt to carry one copy of each required textbook for students and faculty to use for reference, which may include eBook formats in addition to (or in place of) the print copy, if the eBook format can be purchased with library licenses.  The Libraries’ ability to provide a copy of a required textbook by the beginning of the semester depends on the faculty member’s timely course materials adoption. Please note that the libraries will no longer purchase multiple copies of required course materials.
  • The Swarthmore College Libraries will not be able to provide eBooks from Pearson, McGraw Hill, or Cengage, as those publishers do not license their content for libraries to purchase electronically. The Libraries will attempt to purchase other course reserve titles in eBook format whenever possible, to facilitate remote teaching and learning.
  • As in the past, whenever possible the Libraries will provide a copy or copies of recommended and optional textbooks in the format(s) indicated by the faculty member. The faculty member can request to have those recommended and optional textbooks put on reserve.
  • While the Swarthmore College Libraries may be able to provide access to digital monographs through its various subscriptions and possibly through the Hathi Trust controlled digital lending process, for supplementary readings the Libraries will only digitize limited sections.

TAP Increases the Need for Faculty to Submit Required Course Material Adoptions to the Store in a Timely Fashion

  • Faculty play a large role in the success of TAP and in keeping student textbook costs low. The earlier faculty place their book orders, the more options our students will have for less-expensive used copies and rental titles. Also, students can receive more money at end-of-semester buyback for texts that will be used the next semester.
  • Timely orders make it possible for the Store to list required books on our website immediately, for students to use for price comparison and purchase decisions.
  • Importantly, timely book orders from faculty allow the Swarthmore Campus & Community Store to be appropriately stocked for full anticipated student need by the week before the start of class.
  • Faculty members should submit book adoption information through the Store’s website or by accessing their personalized link via Verba Collect emails. The Textbook Manager will send reminder emails to faculty members who have not yet sent their adoption information for a course.  As always, please contact Textbook Manager Erica Considine if you have any questions about the adoption process or your specific course materials. (For Fall 2021, please contact Interim Textbook Manager Nikki Hernandez at [email protected])
  • If the specific edition you requested is out of print, non-returnable, or otherwise not available, the textbook manager will contact you to make other arrangements.
  • The textbook manager will continue to support you in finding the least expensive viable copy of the textbook you require. Note that although old editions and out of print titles can look cheaper initially, due to lack of supply they may not be cheaper for all students in the class to purchase. Publishers sometimes limit sales of old editions to rental or e-book only. Third party vendors may dramatically increase the price of out of print textbooks just before the beginning of the semester. Textbook Manager Erica Considine will be glad to advise you and will help you find the best option for our students.
  • In order to reduce student expense and provide materials that serve for remote as well as on-campus study, the textbook manager will help faculty members identify digital and Inclusive Access course material options as time permits. Note that such additional work takes time, and is yet another reason to submit your course materials adoptions early.
  • If you are not using any purchased texts for a course, please communicate that to the textbook manager by the adoption deadline. We will put that information on our book list and website so that your students can budget their TAP funds accordingly.

TAP – Contacts for Further Information

  • If you have questions pertaining to ordering course materials, availability, pricing, inclusive access options, or textbook information for past courses, please contact the Store’s Assistant Director and Textbook Manager Erica Considine via email to [email protected] or to [email protected].  For Fall 2021, contact Interim Textbook Manager Nikki Hernandez at [email protected]
  • If you have a question about materials provided for reference through the Swarthmore College Libraries, please contact Amy McColl at [email protected].
  • If you have a question about the TAP program itself, please email the Store’s Director Paula Dale at [email protected]. Paula Dale will serve as the contact person for the Textbook Affordability Program, which is administered by the Textbook Affordability Committee.
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