We need to think about the price of textbooks

Isabella Santoro

Photography Editor

Image via Isabella Santoro

If you’ve ever had to pay for a college textbook then you know it feels like shelling out half your paycheck. Most students aren’t able to afford the hefty price of textbooks, even more so during and after the pandemic.

An unsurprising statistic shows that 65% of college students could not afford their textbooks during the pandemic. This is not shocking due to the fact that since the 70’s, rising prices in textbooks have been a growing concern. One might think that there are a lot of ways to get access to textbooks, but this is not always the case. School libraries usually have copies but with the number of students in classes who might also need these textbooks, this may not be an option. These copies have to be returned and most students either need to add notes or highlight sections of their textbooks as well. There is an online bookstore at RIC, but the prices for textbooks are astronomical and the shipping prices may add an extra 10 dollars. Students do not always have time to come pick up textbooks with work and other obligations.

A huge issue is that most textbooks I’ve had to buy for classes are only available new, and new editions always seem to cost double what the used prices are. Even if you’re able to find copies for cheaper on Amazon, they may not be on Prime, or you may not have Prime, and shipping prices in this year’s economy are skyrocketing. Another issue that arises with used copies is they may be damaged. Copies may be ripped, or sections may have been highlighted that you don’t need highlighted. Students are not aware of this when purchasing used copies, as sellers do not want buyers to know.

As a result of this pressing issue, a lot of students aren’t buying their textbooks, which can ultimately cause them to fail their course. Some professors rely almost entirely on the textbooks they want their students to read from, – if a student doesn’t have access to their book, they’ve wasted their time and money taking a class they will only fail.

Many students have to set aside a few hundred dollars every semester just to pay for textbooks. This would seem like a reasonable solution, but a lot of students have other things they need to pay for such as bills, food and family members, which cost more than textbooks. It’s hard enough as it is for college students to pay for fees, let alone shell out hundreds for a single textbook. Once the class is over, most students will only toss the book aside as they no longer have any use for it. Even if you sell your textbook, it’s hard to get nearly the same price that you paid for it.

Another issue I’ve seen with the insane cost of textbooks is that students will always wait until the last minute to purchase their books and end up not being able to get it on time. Online access to a website is required as well and this is usually why the textbooks cost so much. Why not allow a student either free access or a lowered cost of a textbook so they don’t have to pay hundreds for both? Most of the time, students just use the online textbook that comes along with the website, so why do they need to pay extra for the paper bound version if they won’t be using it. It’s a waste of money and trees.

A solution to this decade-long issue is to either offer students free textbooks if they are not able to afford the costs, or at the very least, lower the costs to a price that a majority of students can pay for. Also, have students be able to choose whether they want to pay for the online version or the paper version because not everyone needs – or can afford both. While it may not seem that easy to just lower the costs since it takes money to produce them, libraries can always offer more copies for students or give them access to the online versions so they won’t need to pay for them. There are many simple solutions to this issue that don’t involve a student sacrificing a grade to save money.


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