By Kimberley O'Bryan
The Arbiter, Boise State U.
(UWire)—How much are you paying for textbooks?
According to CollegeBoard.org, the annual average for four-year college students nationwide is $1,137. A U.S. Public Service Interest Group survey that involved 13 campuses and 1,900 students states 70% of those students didn't buy one or more required texts because of the expense.
Adam Corder, a freshman majoring in social work, nearly decided to drop out over the cost of books.
"I paid my tuition but had no idea how expensive books would be. It cost over $400 for just the required texts, including a bundle I bought for Algebra with a CD I don't even need," Adam said. "I had to borrow the money from my sister."
Seventy percent of students didn't buy one or more required texts because of the expense.
Corder is not alone. Textbook prices have shot up 22% since 2007, four times the rate of inflation. That's a large price hike for anyone, especially college students on a budget.
Dr. Jennifer Black, an English professor, encounters students every semester who have problems buying books for her classes. She puts textbooks on hold in the library but it's not enough.
"Just today I had a student come up to me to say that he had to wait one more week before he could afford to buy the textbook for my class, which is a real problem when there are assigned readings to do," Black said.
Some teachers go so far as to keep extra books on hand to help their students.
Director of Literature, Dr. Linda Marie Zaerr, started a small library for literature majors. Right now it's a small stash, only 12 feet of shelf space.
Any literature student in financial need can borrow a book to use for the semester. Zaerr hopes other students will donate often-used texts so the collection will grow and help more students in need.
The U.S. PIRG survey and About.com gave the following reasons that textbooks are so expensive:
- New editions—Publishers don't make money when too many used books are in circulation, so they release new editions every few years to make the used books obsolete.
- Bundling—A manufacturer packages books with CDs, codes, or other extras a student may not need.
- Highly specialized—College books can be quite specialized and the material needed might not be found in any other book. The lack of competition drives the prices up.
- Faculty control—In high schools, the books are chosen by a committee and they negotiate price with publishers. In college, each faculty member chooses books for their own class and some professors are not sensitive to the budgets of their students.
Many students avoid campus bookstores because they think prices are too high.
Senior Lyn Uratani uses Chegg while others shop Amazon or eBay.
While Lyn, an English major, chases the cheapest price, others she knows might not be so savvy.
"I have friends who regularly fork out more than $500 a semester," Lyn said.
But going through the campus bookstore may not be the most expensive way anymore.
Boise State Bookstore's website now has a price comparison feature that allows students to choose from the lowest prices on the Web without having to check other sites.
"This is a service to the students, plus it helps us see where our prices can be more comparable," Greg Kannenberg, textbook manager, said.
Kannenberg added that the bookstore does everything possible to keep prices low for students, including buying used books whenever possible and shopping around for the lowest price.
Three organizations committed to providing affordable alternatives to skyrocketing textbook costs:
- TextbookRebellion.org, promotes affordable alternatives such as open textbooks.
- StudentPIRGs.org, leading a national movement against rising textbook prices.
- Flat World Knowledge, largest publisher of free and open textbooks worldwide.