As the new semester gets underway, students are again faced with the daunting costs of high-priced textbooks. Digital textbooks, sometimes offered by multiple retailers, are presented by professors as cost-saving options, but we have found that’s usually not the case, especially because digital books cannot be sold back or purchased used.
Digital books sometimes come with additional, expensive access codes for online resources. Aplia in particular is a program with costs that run just as high, if not higher, than actual textbooks. Many students have been required to purchase Aplia for certain classes, when D2L and other web sources could provide many of the same quiz functions it offers, but for free.
With most college students facing student loans, debt, rent and tuition payments, pricey textbook costs deepen the hole in students’ wallets, which can be frustrating when the books are rarely used.
According to the National Association of College Stores, the average college student reports paying $655 for textbooks and supplies annually. The NACS notes that this is a slight drop from four years ago due to an increase in rentals, but the cost is still steep, especially when added on to the soon-to-be $34,200 Marquette students pay in tuition before aid.
We ask that professors respect students’ financial pressures by only requiring expensive texts if they will actually be used as an integral part of the course. If, realistically, only one or two chapters of a book or a few excerpts here and there will be used during the entire semester, professors should seriously consider saving students’ money by not requiring the text at all.
Upperclassmen have typically learned to wait until “syllabus week” to purchase the books they need, but freshmen are unaware of this unspoken rule, usually ordering their books well in advance. Freshmen end up learning this lesson only by seeing their money go down the drain on unused textbooks at the end of the semester.
We understand the proposition of heavy reading in college classes, and we would not expect anything less from our professors. But we ask that they examine other options when costs get out of control or the texts themselves do not serve much of a purpose, which many times occur simultaneously. The Raynor Memorial Libraries offer databases full of research journals and articles free to students and faculty. Ares, another library system, allows professors to reserve readings for classes through the library.
We are certainly not asking for the university to do away with textbooks. We only ask that professors consider other options and find the most affordable way to provide students with their necessary materials.