How much does is a textbook actually worth?

Students all over the country can agree on one thing – college is expensive.

By Jennifer Leto
Features Reporter 

Every year, the cost of education keeps rising and students are finding themselves scrambling to cover the cost.

While tuition often receives the most attention, housing, living expenses, parking decals, and school supplies all add to the total cost of attending a university.

One of the major complaints from college students is the cost of required course materials and textbooks, which can tack on hundreds of additional dollars to the cost of education each semester.

The average cost of tuition is $9,650 per year at public four-year institutions, according to College Board, so many students feel disheartened when they learn the cost will be increased when books are added into the mix.

Sarah Ryan, a senior at the University of Alabama, said she spends close to $800 on books a semester.

“Last semester, I paid close to $300 for just one of my accounting books,” said Sarah Ryan, a senior at the University of Alabama. “We always have to buy the new additions because, with accounting, the regulations and stuff change. The change won’t even be that big, but one little change and we need a whole new book.”

Ryan is not alone.

Giovanna DeVito, a senior at the University of South Florida, said textbooks generally cost between $300 and $400.

“It depends on my classes, but that’s what I typically spend on average,” DeVito said. “It definitely makes things difficult. Books are so pricey and it is frustrating to spend all of that money on a book for just one class.”

The New York Post reports that the average college student spends $655 per year on textbooks. Books continue to be expensive because publishers often release new editions. Publishers do not make money off used book sales, so it is to their benefit to release new editions to make a profit.

According to the Atlantic, professors often assign textbooks without considering the burden of the cost it will have on the students. For the sake of their academic success, students have no choice but to comply with their syllabus and purchase these pricey books.

However, there is a potential solution in sight. Congress has introduced a new bill titled the “Affordable College Textbook Act.” This legislation would create a grant program for colleges and universities to create and make textbooks available online with free access to the public.

Some schools have this open book policy available already through the website “Open Textbook Library.” Other advice for students who are renting books is to use alternative sites such as Chegg and Amazon and purchasing cheaper online versions of the text.

At The University of Alabama Supply Store, various textbook options are available to students at a range of different prices.

“The University Supply Store researches and offers different format and pricing options to assist students and parents with stretching their educational dollars,” said Bernadette Chavira-Trull, associate director of books. “These options include new, used, paperback, hardback, binder ready, digital and rental when available.”

The University of Alabama has resources for students who want to sell back their books. Students can visit the “Supe Store” website to find the buyback value of their books.

“There are several factors that influence the buyback price of a previously owned course materials, such as has the course material item been requested for a future academic term, is the course material a consumable item such as a lab manual, etc.,” Chavira-Trull said.

The Supe Store held 3,550 course material items for this Spring 2017 semester, which were hand selected by professors for their individual classes. This number varies by semester.

Chavira-Trull said that UA supports “academic freedom,” which gives the professors full reign to choose their materials. The store does their best to give students various options to attain and finance their books. They work with faculty to provide lower-cost options and by disassembling bundles so students can have options.

Many students also make use of off-campus bookstores, which usually carry the same materials at a lower price. However, these stores may not have the most updated version of books and if they do, the price is only slightly lower.

Then there is the topic of scholarships. There are many out there available to cover the cost of books. While these scholarships may not be specifically allocated for the purchase of books, the amount and their donors have this in cost in mind. “The Supe Store” contributes to scholarship funds at UA.

“The Store’s excess operating funds are returned to the University to fund scholarships and other campus programs,” Chavira-Trull said.

This is possible because “The Supe Store” is a self-supporting extension of The University of Alabama.