Aug. 24 opened a new chapter in the lives of many students at Northern Kentucky University, but before most begin to read their books, there is another thing they must open – their billfolds.
The national average spent on textbooks, per student, was $1,122 for the entire 2009-10 school year, according to the College Board. The Higher Education Opportunity Act was passed by Congress in 2008 and included means to help students combat the high prices of text books.
The provisions included in the Higher Education Opportunity Act required colleges to provide information, such as the names of books and their corresponding International Standard Book Number (ISBN). This gives students the chance to shop around for the best prices before their term begins.
Although the act may have relieved some financial stress, many people still feel it is not enough.
“When you spend $200 – $1000 on textbooks a semester, it’s a big cost,” said Sean Mulligan, a senior at NKU.
Mulligan is one of the many students at NKU who believes in getting a head start on buying books. The most affordable option, in his opinion, is Amazon.com.
“One thing that is nice when shopping on Amazon.com for textbooks is they show you the buy-back price that is good for the rest of the semester below the book info,” Mulligan said. “This helps to see what the real cost of that book is for the semester.”
Although Mulligan usually shops through Amazon, students have many other choices when it comes to where they buy their textbooks. Some other options include Chegg.com (a textbook rental site), Half.com, Campus Book & Supply and the NKU Bookstore.
Although some like the price options available with online shopping, David Kline, manager of Campus Book & Supply in Cold Spring, holds some reservations.
“In some cases I don’t think technology is always the best answer,” Kline said.
Kline notes that Campus Book & Supply does more than just provide textbooks for students.
“If we’re successful, we donate money back to the university,” he said. “We give college students jobs and if we go away and everyone’s on the Internet, jobs will go away and finances to the university will go away.”
Kline realizes that because of increasing textbook prices and ever-growing technological competition, he must offer what online providers cannot: a personal experience.
“People seem to like the fact that we get their books for them,” he said. “Some people like that they don’t have to search … and we provide great service.”
“The staff there is awesome. You hand them your list of courses, they pick them out off their shelves and tell you the total,” he said. “It’s best for someone who is unsure or doesn’t want to really hassle with pricing. The only downfall … is the long lines to get your books and check out.”
Kline said he is doing his best to keep up with the digital age, and even started a rental program similar to the one NKU runs in cooperation with Follett Higher Education Group, although he said it is not easy.
NKU’s “Rent-a-Text” program claims it can save students 50 percent or more on the cost of their textbooks, according to the National Association of College Stores (NACS).
In its pilot program, Follett saved students from 27 different schools nearly $6 million in two terms using Rent-a-Text, according to the NACS.
Elio DiStaola, the director of Public and Campus Relations for Follett, said Rent-a-Text offers convenience, flexibility and assurance. He said that many students are going without necessary materials needed for their success.
“Driving down costs will drive up the number of students with materials in-hand for educational success,” he said.
Although Chegg, and Campus Book & Supply also offers rentals, DiStaola feels that the NKU Bookstore offers some things that no one else can.
“The campus store brings great value to the student, not only by guaranteeing the right book via its strong relationships with faculty, but also its ability to deliver convenience and flexibility,” he said. “Students add/drop courses, instructors change their minds on course materials; the bookstore, right on-site, can remedy those situations. Also, Rent-a-Text allows for payment with financial aid and campus cards.”
The program further allows normal wear, such as highlighting, dog-earing, and note-taking, of its books over the course of a semester.
“We simply ask that it is returned in a usable condition for the next student,” said Distaola
A book is considered usable as long as it does not impair the next student from the book’s full experience, according to DiStaola
“[If you] Don’t rip out pages, avoid water damage … students should be fine,” he said.
Freshman Rebecca Davidson hoped going to NKU’s on-campus bookstore would give her a break from all of the other matters she had to deal with in preparation for her first semester.
“I thought it would be a lot less of a hassle for my first time doing this, rather than try to find the right ones on-line and hope they arrive on time,” Davidson said. “The people working there were actually very helpful. Not only were they able to answer all of my questions, but they walked through the entire process with me and ensured that I found each source that was required and even the extra material that would be helpful.”
Although not all of Davidson’s books were available for rent, she estimated she saved $30 or $40 dollars by renting one.
DiStaola said that rentals are for the entire term and due back after finals.
Story by James Wilson