With each new semester comes a sense of unstoppable motivation for students, giving a fresh start to make this the term where everything goes right and academic success is just in reach. There is one damper to this idealistic situation though, which is the infamous purchase of college textbooks.
Try as they might, students can not ignore the fact that books are necessary for class and come with a high price tag. The costs have skyrocketed to outrageous numbers.
During the first week of school, the Saddleback College Bookstore made a staggering $820,000, and, during the second week, an impressive $196,000.
According to Saddleback College Bookstore manager Jim Harding, 52, the average full-time student in the store will spend at least $250 each semester which, for a 12 unit load, is $10 more than the tuition itself.
“Stay within your current options,” Harding said. “Re-selling, buying used books, or buying them online helps.”
The bookstore currently offers a re-sell rate of 50 percent of the current selling price, considering that the textbook is in relatively good condition and needs to be stocked. The best time to sell back books is between terms and during the first week of classes, when they are most likely to be in demand.
For some students, though, it is still hard to justify the cost of college textbooks despite the option to re-sell.
“I don’t know why I bother buying them,” said student Scott Burns, 20, undecided. “I don’t even open them anyways.”
This may be true for classes where the recommended text is rarely needed. Other commonly required courses, though, such as mathematics and science classes, use the text on a regular basis. If students can not afford the textbooks for these classes, this may negatively affect their overall educational goals.
“It makes it harder for some students to learn the course when they can’t even afford the books,” said student Sean Latimer, 19, business. “Books shouldn’t be an investment. Classes should be.”
For students who do not pay for their books, it is their parents who feel the impact of high textbook prices. Saddleback College alumni Michelle Brown, 46, regularly pays for her daughter’s tuition and books, but not without woe.
“The cost of college textbooks for community college is astronomical,” said Brown. “It doesn’t make sense for the books to cost more than the tuition.”
Students have turned to alternative options to afford their college textbooks, such as buying used books or purchasing them online. Other bookstores not located on campus, such as College Books across the street from Saddleback, offer much lower prices for used books. This is a common option when purchasing class books.
Another option for students is utilizing the internet. Books are sold on all sorts of websites for much lower prices. Some classes at Saddleback even offer the option of buying “e-books,” where the student purchases an access code at a fraction of the actual text price, which allows the user to view the book online. For students with internet access, this is an excellent option.
This situation has been recognized by the state of California, but with little effect on our students.
The California Textbook Affordability Act, SB 832, was introduced by Senator Corbett in 2007, but was not approved. The act would have required certain information regarding wholesale book prices, how long a text is expected to stay on the market, and differences between past and present book editions to be disclosed to faculty members and the public.
Until a new possibility arises, the options are encouraging school staff to use the least expensive options in their classes, explaining to students the differences in book editions and offering students book packages that include supplementary learning material s like instructional CD’s and DVD’s.
In the meantime, students can continue to search for substitute purchase techniques in their efforts to save money on college textbooks.