Finding new, creative ways to afford school supplies can be a challenge for some college students. They look to cut back on perhaps the more expensive items most necessary for classes: textbooks. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Seven out of 10 students are opting to not purchase the required textbooks in the past year because of economic woes.
“The books on campus are overpriced,” freshman Birseyda Alas said. “I spent more money because I was unsure of the process of buying books, but now I know for next year how to save money.”
According to The College Board, a nonprofit organization that works to prepare and offer support to future college students, undergraduate students spend an average of $1,168 on books and supplies annually. Federal legislation ensures that this number fits into the average college student’s budget through the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA). Under the 2010 HEOA’s Textbook Affordability Provisions law, publishers must disclose prices when marketing textbooks to professors, which then gives professors the opportunity to consider lower-cost alternatives.
But even some professors think this number is too high.
“I remember what it was like when I was in college years ago and having my dad have to buy my textbooks at one point, but I think [the rising cost of texbooks has] gotten worse,” said Northern Kentucky University communication professor Matt Baker.
Elio DiStaola, director of public and campus relations for the Follett Higher Education Group, said that is why bookstores came up with alternate options.
“At the bookstore, books for sale are based on a simple equation, the original price from the publisher, plus an agreed upon contractual margin between the store and the school. Since pricing depends largely on the cost from the publisher, we’ve created programs like Rent-A-Text,” Distaola said.
Along with Rent-A-Text, an on-campus service, programs such as eCampus and Chegg save students an estimated $120 million a year, according to DiStaola.
“The books are still expensive but I saw similar prices online, it was more comfortable for me to just buy from the on-campus bookstore,” junior, Jibin Jeon, said.
Other students find buying books more convenient than renting.
“Renting seems like too much of a hassle, I saved money buying my books on Amazon,” freshman Jessie Braden said.
Students, professors, and government officials alike have come up with ways to save on textbooks. Many NKU professors participate in both posting class readings online, as well as leaving a copy of the required text in the library on reserve for students to check out for two hours.
NKU Library Student Assistant Mark Daniel Smith said that students have been checking out reserve books more frequently than in the past. The library currently has over 60 books that students can reserve.
SwoopThat is a free service created by students for students that integrates textbook price comparison shopping with course schedules, and allows students buy and sell textbooks from their peers.
A new website, Textbook Showdown, is the Kayak of online textbook purchasing. The site allows students to compare current textbook prices, to buy, sell, or rent.
Whether renting or buying, students always have options.