The sticker shock that comes when college students take a look at the latest course textbooks prices is leading to some creative and unusual remedies.
In California, a partnership between West Valley College and Second Harvest Food Bank lets students borrow textbooks in exchange for canned-food donations.
At Bluefield College in Virginia, students can pay one flat, discounted fee that allows them to receive all their required textbooks before classes start.
“It’s no wonder that colleges and students need to think outside the box when it comes to textbooks; they represent a staggering cost that just seems to get worse,” says Chris Manns, managing director of the price-comparison websites CheapestTextbooks.com and TextbookRentals.com. Both free services aim to help students locate the cheapest prices for millions of books.
One study by the Student Public Interest Research Groups showed that the cost for college textbooks has risen 73 percent over the last decade – more than four times the inflation rate.
“Sometimes the expenses aren’t even necessary,” Manns says. “For example, students might be required to buy a ‘book bundle’ with extra class materials that add to the cost. Often professors don’t even use some items in those bundles.”
Outside of a few innovative programs, such as that textbook-in-exchange-for-food-donation arrangement, the options for most students boil down to buying or renting.
“Renting might seem the obvious choice because of the price,” Manns says. “But that’s not always the case. When you look a little deeper, you could find you’d be better off buying the book and selling it later.”
(Next page: Considerations students take in considering buying vs. renting course textbooks)