Editorial: Students burdened by textbook selection, prices

Editorial Board

In a 200-level introductory class full of mostly freshmen and sophomores, the professor began his lecture to an audience of students with notebooks open and pens crooked, ready to take notes. On the corner of nearly every desk sat a short stack of neatly piled textbooks.

In a 400-level class that contained mostly juniors and seniors, with a sprinkling of sophomores, the professor began class by reading through the syllabus. When she reached the section on required readings, she looked up and asked, “how many of you have your books already?” Not a single hand was raised.

Most upperclassmen have learned from experience not to buy textbooks the moment the complete list is released. After a year or two of spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars on textbooks, students are more cautious.

Each semester, students dread the high costs of textbooks. Whether purchased through the University Book Store, Amazon or some other retailer, the total can reach into the hundreds of dollars.

Though we cannot lower textbooks prices with a snap of our fingers, both students and professors can work together to make textbook prices more manageable on an individual basis.

Textbooks are not always absolutely necessary for a course. Often, a professor’s lectures completely overlap the reading material, rendering it more supplementary than essential. Students would be better able to prioritize their textbook purchases if there was differentiation between what is necessary and what is merely beneficial.

As of right now, textbooks are listed as either “required” or “optional.” Unfortunately, the only books that are ever categorized as “optional” are alternative or online forms. Books that are truly optional (not necessary to the core points of the class or not used in test material) should be labeled as such by professors.

Students do not always have the money to buy all books at once and being told what is important and what isn’t would help alleviate some of the stress of financing each class.

An additional way that professors could aid students is through more careful selection of texts.

Some textbooks are sold either with or without the option of a disc that provides additional online materials. Choosing the book without it immediately drops the price of the textbook. The University Book Store is likely to stock the book with the disc and the higher price. However, professors who know they do not plan to use the disc could choose the less expensive option, saving students money.

Finally, being able to buy the materials for a class is a student’s obligation. Purchasing all books straight out of the University Book Store is rarely the most financially sound option. As an individual becomes more immersed in their major, they have more and more contacts who have taken the same or similar classes. By networking with friends and other students, many people are able to buy used, affordable copies of textbooks at a more manageable price.

Though experience might have taught upperclassmen not to buy their textbooks right away, we should all still be thinking about our books ahead of time. By taking the time to shop online or talk to friends who may have a copy, a student can find the best price out there for each of their textbooks.

Professors can be more careful about textbook selections and prioritization, but it’s ultimately up to the student to manage college finances. Thinking ahead about where to get textbooks prevents students from purchasing last minute at the bookstore and from emptying already low bank accounts.