College students go without textbooks as prices rise

By Dennis Carter, Assistant Editor
November 30th, 2011

UC Riverside tuition and fees have risen by $2,000 since last year.

Six in 10 students at the University of California, Riverside said they forgo purchasing recommended class supplies—including textbooks—because they’re strapped for cash.

The findings from UC Riverside, a campus of 20,000 students, reflect results of similar surveys conducted by the Student Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), an organization that has pushed for open online textbook programs that could slash book costs to a fraction of the $1,000 student spend today.

And while 60 percent of respondents to the UC Riverside survey said they “skipped buying [schools supplies] entirely,” two-thirds of students said they postponed buying textbooks and other supplies, leaving them without necessary class material in the first weeks of a course.

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“As instructors, we need to think about how to make course materials available to our students,” said Steven Brint, the university’s vice provost for undergraduate education who commissioned the survey of more than 5,300 undergraduates. “But at the end of the day reading is essential to learning. Instructors should continue to assess whether students are reading assigned materials.”

UC Riverside students said the price of textbooks – especially when they’re not available via rental services or buy-back programs – has had a major impact on their social lives.

Eight in 10 students said they spent less money on food to cope with book costs, and 83 percent cut back on going out with friends.

Brint said UC Riverside instructors and professors have done what they can to make textbooks more affordable. Some faculty members have made book copies available on the campus library’s reserve list. Others have posted textbook material on an online learning program called iLearn.

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