Fellow word lovers, I promise this is the only time you’ll ever witness me bashing books. Now, imagine this being said by Jerry Seinfeld: What’s the deal with college books? I saw a graphic on Vox.com from the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry that made my stomach churn.
Seriously, what is the deal? This is gross. College already is already expensive, and the cost of books is increasing at a greater rate than tuition! The worst part is that it hits hardest with students who are already fighting an uphill battle against obstacles and statistics. Low-income students get the shortest end of the stick here.
When I was a college counselor, coming up with money for books was problematic for my low-income students. I had several students enrolled in courses they loved (or were required by their major) who dropped, withdrew from, or even failed the courses because they couldn’t access the necessary texts to participate in the class. Many of these students had used up their summer job money to help out at home or to pay their tuition balance or to purchase dorm necessities like twin XL sheets and toiletries, and so books often took a back seat.
It was beyond frustrating to find out in October that a student of mine wasn’t passing in biology homework because he didn’t have the lab workbook, or that she was failing philosophy because there were reading quizzes every class and she didn’t have any of the books. They were paying (or taking out loans to pay) for these classes that they weren’t successful in because they couldn’t pay for the books. And I would list out all of the resources I could think of, but it was usually too late. GAH!
Here are a few resources to help cut book money costs—and please tweet at me (@alilincolntvp) with any more money-saving ideas for buying college books.
Textbook and e-book rentals: Many school bookstores and some websites offer the option to rent textbooks for the whole semester. Still kind of a racket, but not a bad option for knocking out basic courses.
School library (and reserve): Most schools stock the books that professors put on the syllabus in their own libraries. Even better, some professors put multiple copies of required text on reserve for students in their courses. Though the books can’t leave the library, students can access them for free.
Book Swaps: Students can check on school Facebook groups, Craigslist (or a school-specific Craigslist if one exists) to see if anyone has books from a previous semester up for grabs for free, cash, or swap.
Public libraries: Want to know something awesome about being an English major (or somewhere in the humanities)? Novels, poetry books, memoirs, biographies, etc. are readily available at public libraries. And with the power of the inter-library loan, even more titles can be accessible.
Book-specific scholarships: College communities and local communities sometimes have smaller (read: under $500) scholarships specifically for books, so students should do research before heading to campus. Groups that offer book money include community foundations, Rotary clubs, Elks or Lions clubs, church groups, Scout Troops, TRiO programs, and alumni groups.
Schools or community programs: Some departments and programs within schools don’t publicize money or books they have available to students in need. Students in programs like Upward Bound, peer mentoring, etc. should inquire within the school for options.
Faculty: Professors might have extra copies of books they can lend to students. It can’t hurt to ask; the worst response will be “no.” At some (usually smaller) schools, students can appeal with the financial aid department or with their class dean, but those are long shots.
And to avoid ending on a sour grapes book note, enjoy this very important bookish lexicon.