Students feel the strain: textbook costs continually rise

College isn’t cheap, and rising tuition costs are making it more difficult for students to attend. But one cost is increasing at an even faster rate than tuition: textbooks.

The price of textbooks is increasing at a faster rate than the inflation of college tuition, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan. And certain majors, like accounting and nursing, are more prone to pricier textbooks.

To cut down on textbook costs, some Belmont students dodged the bookstore prices altogether and opted for cheaper alternative resources.

Morgan Stone, a sophomore accounting major, knows the financial strain of having to purchase pricey textbooks all too well.

“The most I have ever spent on a textbook was $300,” Stone said.

The book was for an intermediate accounting course. Stone was, however, able to reuse the textbook for another required accounting course.

But once she completes the course, she’ll only be using the book to study for her Certified Public Accountants exam.

Mike Reno, the textbook manager at the campus bookstore, believes the value of some textbooks is worth paying the full price on campus.

“Most students in nursing choose to keep their books,” Reno said.

Nursing students will refer back to them time and time again in higher level nursing courses as well as on the job, he said.

When it comes to general education courses, students typically sell their books back to the bookstore or partake in inter-student selling and trade, Stone said.

“Students generally like to buy from other students because there is a system of respect in which the older student is obviously not going to take advantage of a student trying to get a cheaper textbook,” She said.

Reno said he tries to be “as competitive as possible” in order to keep up with prices from online websites like Amazon and Chegg. However, the publisher sets the retail price. From that, there is a markup in order to make a profit, he said.

Reno does not believe alternative resources affect his bottom line.

“Like buying music, you can buy a vinyl, or a CD or a digital download, but you’re somehow going to be paying a different price for the same product,” Reno said.

Another problem students face when buying textbooks with the intent of using them in multiple classes is finding that the book becomes outdated.

Cynthia Watkins, an associate professor of special education, requires her students’ textbooks to be as up to date as possible.

In an education textbook, the major concerns are a change in litigation and legislation, Watkins said.

She mentioned No Child Left Behind as a major change in the national public education system and as an example of something that needed to be added to teaching textbooks.

Many professors in the education department create a reading packet that they print off in order to cut back on textbook costs for their students, Watkins said. The professors are on the students’ side.

Some of her students are turning to e-books for their textbooks. Many of them have found digital editions of the books required for her classes for cheaper prices than their hard copy counterparts.

“Students need to be aware there are multiple sources to find textbooks,” Watkins said. Her advice for students looking to cut down on textbook costs: invest in an e-reader.

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