Look for methods to make college textbooks affordable



In this country, many families struggle to pay tuition, as the average tuition for in-state at a public four-year college is about $9,139 per semester. After stressed families manipulate their money to sending their child to college, another costly fee begins to show its ugly face.

The College Board estimates that the average college student spends approximately $1,200 a year on textbooks. These prices are outrageous, yet it seems like our country is not interested in lowering them.

In 2015, President Barack Obama proposed an idea, America’s College Promise, which would allow everyone in the U.S. to attend two years of community college for free, as long as the student maintained a 2.5 GPA.

This plan would make great changes to our country, giving many citizens the privilege to further their education and become as informed as possible. The average cost of tuition at a community college is $2,713, and this would be waived if America’s College Promise were passed.

If this country can think about making community colleges free, it should also think about making textbooks free.

However, this seems impossible due to the way the textbook industry is run. In 2006, MASSPIRG, an independent statewide student organization, conducted a survey of 287 professors from colleges and universities in Massachusetts and found that the way textbooks are handled is questionable.

Of the professors who met with sales representatives from textbook companies to research textbooks, 77 percent said the sales representative did not give the price of the books.

Of the professors who used the publisher’s website to research textbooks, more than half said the site did not list the price of the book.

This data leads one to believe our professors are left out of the loop when it comes to the books they use to teach their classes.

71 percent of the professors surveyed said new editions of textbooks are justified only “sometimes” or “rarely,” and as you probably know, the new editions of textbooks that we are told are necessary usually cost more.

On the UK bookstore’s website, buying a new organic chemistry textbook costs $305. This book gives great examples and practice problems, but in order to see the answers to the practice problems, students must buy the solution manual, which costs $200 when bought new. That is $505 on two books for one class. Students who must opt out of getting the solution manual because they could not afford it leaves them stuck doing problems only to hope they got the correct answers.

Although electronic textbooks and rental programs show price deductions, even the lower prices can be expensive. To rent a new Organic Chemistry textbook it is $137. This is lower than the original prices, but still a price not all students can afford. In a world where conversations about free community college are taking place, the conversation about free textbooks — or at least drastically lowering the cost of them — needs to take place as well.