*Articles reflect the views of the author and or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the views of CCBC or The CCBC Connection.
Imagine this; you’re an average college student. You have to work a part time job in order to afford an education. College and university tuition rates are growing every year and you're just
trying to keep up.
After working a long shift on top of a full day of classes your feet hurt, your brain feels fried, and you're mentally exhausted. Luckily you finally have enough money to pay off your tuition for the semester just to go to class the following day to find out you have to pay even more money for a class-required textbook.
This is the reality for millions of college students across the nation. Many are struggling to afford the education they need in order be successful in life. As student debt rises so does their frustration. Students are starting to ask the question, “why aren’t textbooks included with classes anyways?”
They’re absolutely right. Colleges and universities should include textbooks with the class tuition and fees. It only makes sense to.
Tuition is already expensive enough. The average cost of tuition at a community college in the United States is reported at $4,864 a year. While a public four year institution averages at $9,970 a year.
These numbers may seem attainable but this is only the tuition. Students also have to pay fees and for transportation. Those attending four year schools may need to pay for room and board as well. All of these extra costs can bring their average total up to $50,000 a year. On top of all this colleges then ask for students to pay for multiple textbooks for their classes every semester.
Textbooks aren’t cheap either. One textbook can easily cost $300. Students taking multiple classes a semester spend an average of $1,300 a year on books alone, according to the "Community College Review."
These prices are just rising. According to the American Enterprise Institute, compared to three decades ago, tuition and fees have increased by 559 percent. Textbook prices are growing even faster. Reported to be 812 percent higher than they were in the previous decades. With the increased tuition why can’t colleges include required textbooks with the class fees students already have to pay? Where is all this money going?
“If I’m paying my school thousands and thousands of dollars, they should be able to at least give me a used textbook I need for my class,” Aisha Nelson, Morgan State University student said.
Students don’t have the option to just not buy them either. These textbooks are labeled “required” for a reason. Many professors center their lecture and overall course around these books. Some even use them for assigned readings which directly affects their scores, potentially dropping them a letter grade if not completed correctly. Those who can’t afford the book are disadvantaged from the very beginning of the class compared to their peers who are fortunate enough to afford the high price tag.
Most colleges offer book credits with their financial aid packages to help offset the costs of textbooks, but they can only take students so far. Book credits are additional aid given to students who qualify for them. The amount each student is given is calculated by estimating the cost of what the student should be spending on books. Yet many students still complain it’s not enough.
“Last semester I was given $500 in credits to spend on the books that I needed. I thought it would cover the cost completely but I still ended up owing $100,” Nelson said. “It’s just frustrating thinking you’ll be good and then all of a sudden you’re not.”
Even with having to pay out of pocket for the remaining balance those with book credits are still better off than some. There are students who don’t even qualify for book credits and have to pay the full amount all by themselves. Adding that to the additional fees and supplies not calculated with the reported cost of school, it is clear to see why so many are frustrated with this system.
With all the income colleges receive they should be able to afford to provide at least used books for their students. Universities and colleges across the nation are bringing in billions of dollars every year. Many also receive funding from the federal government. Even with the cost of running these schools, including all the variables, there still seems to be a substantial amount left over.
It would be more reasonable to create a lending book system similar to those used in high schools rather than offer book credits at all. Students should be given the required textbooks in class at the beginning of the semester and return them at the end. If there is any significant damage to the book or the book is missing entirely the student should then be responsible to
replace the book.
Another feasible option would be for schools to purchase the online access codes for their students. Not only would this be a more environmentally friendly option, access codes are also in general considerably cheaper. Averaging at about $100 a code many students prefer this over the traditional textbook.
Of course these solutions will cost schools money, but isn’t one of their favorite phrases “you have to spend money to make money”? If they’re expecting their students to pay these sizable charges in order to have a successful career then they should be willing to give a little bit of their profits back to the ones who gave it to them in the first place.
The bottom line is that no student should have their academic performance be in jeopardy because they can’t afford to buy a textbook on top of their already weighty expenses. Most of the colleges and universities have the available funds and they should use them to ensure every one of their students have the opportunity to be successful.