$150 for one textbook? Why?

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Laura LaVacca
Campus News

So your student loans are all sorted, tuition is covered for the semester and you have a meal plan all ready to be used. Then comes the first day of classes where you are presented with your laundry list of textbooks. Textbooks? Did they forget to tell you about the $150 dollar book you would need for the class? Or how about the four $50 dollar ones you need for your other class? Estimates of how much students spend on textbooks range from $700 to $1,100 annually. The market for new books is estimated at $3.6 billion (Mui, Break on Textbooks Unlikely). According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, between 1986 and 2004, the price of textbooks nearly tripled. Textbooks are a huge part of the cost of college, yet no assistance is offered to help pay for them.  ………………………………………………………………………………….
There is both a state and federal law designed to keep the cost of textbooks down. NY state and federal textbook laws state that any college “receiving money from the state shall work to identify ways to reduce student expenditures on course materials, thereby making college more affordable.” Many students are not even aware of laws like these, so are colleges even upholding them?  The directors of the bookstores at Nassau Community College, Queensborough Community College and Suffolk Community College did not return calls or e-mails about the subject.   ………………………………………………………………………………….
Knowing that students are paying a lot for tuition and most likely tight on cash, why do professors choose the more expensive, newest editions of books when in many cases different editions or older ones will do? Professors were reluctant to comment on the controversy, with only one professor, Laura Caputo, being honest enough to say that she “tells students where to go to get books for a better price.” She admitted she suggests such sites as Amazon.com for cheaper books and shipping fees. A book on Amazon can be up to 50% off with other college sites promising 95% off list prices (campusbooks.com).This issue strikes a passionate chord with many students. One student residing in Nassau County, Matt Monk, told me that it was “ridiculous because the editions are always the same year to year. Why do they have to order the newest when I can get the older one cheaper?” Eric Sherman, student at SUNY Suffolk, pointed out the unfairness of having to “blow all that cash on books to be used once. I spend about $500 a semester. It’s unfair!” Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, called it “absurd” and offered that “textbooks should really be part of tuition.”  ………………………………………………………………………………….
Monk also suggested that there should be some sort of “grant program to help pay for books.” He also raised another point—the little amount of money a student receives when selling a book back: “What the textbook is worth when you sell it back vs. what you paid for it is unfair.” The consensus seems to be that textbooks should become part of college tuition—or at the very least a program should be offered to help with the costs.  ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
There are few colleges and universities that offer scholarships that include textbook money. Students who qualify must have extremely low income, along with few other factors making the eligibility very slim for most students. National scholarships include the “College Bookstores of America Scholarship,” which awards five scholarships in the amount of $200 given annually and the “Helping Hands Book Scholarship Program” where 50 one-time awards of $100 – $1,000 are awarded each year (collegescholarships.org). While these scholarships are helpful, such a limited number is available.  ………………………………………………………………………………….
There are other options out there, thanks to websites like chegg.com where students can rent textbooks for a fraction of the cost of a new book. There is also the college library available as an option. Are these more cost- effective options being utilized? Jen Marx, a student at SUNY Suffolk, suggested that “Professors should also be a little more sympathetic to the fact that books are very expensive. They want us to have them immediately, have our own copies, as opposed to taking out from the library or renting, to write in. They have to realize that this can’t always happen.” ………………………………………………………………………………….
With website like googlebooks.com, and gadgets like the Kindle, physical textbooks could cease to exist. It’s possible that one day every student will be required to carry a Kindle and download books instead of having to buy the large, expensive ones. This could potentially reduce textbook costs. However, until this happens professors need to be sympathetic to students low on cash and colleges need to continually work toward remedying the situation.
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