High price of textbooks makes professors consider cheaper alternatives

The average full-time undergraduate student at a four-year college spends around $1,200 a year on school books and supplies, according to data from the College Board.

Tuition at St. Edward’s University for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year will be $38,320, well above the national average of $31,231 at private four-year universities. While the St. Edward’s website estimates that students will spend an average of $1,100 on textbooks and supplies, $100 less than the national average, that cost combined with higher-than- average tuition worries some students.

Audrey Auleley, a sophomore forensic chemistry major, struggles with the high prices of science textbooks.

“I wish the science department would help more students buy less expensive books, especially when we don’t even use 50 percent of the material in the book,” Auleley said.

Students from the science department of the university agree that required science textbooks can be on the pricey side, and some say they have paid exorbitant prices for their course materials.

Senior Isabela Aranguren, a psychology major, also thinks some of her textbooks were a waste of her money. For one of her classes, she had to spend the full price on a book because renting it was not an option.

“For my history and systems class, the book was over $200 and even though I’m planning on selling it, I know I’ll only get $70 back, which isn’t even half the price of the original book,” Aranguren said.

In a survey of 100 St. Edward’s students of varying class levels and majors, 90 students reported that they have borrowed or rented a textbook instead of buying it because of its high price.

Companies like Amazon, Chegg and BookRenter play a helpful role for college students in finding the cheaper alternative for required textbooks, especially when a textbook costs around $200 or more. According to the same survey, more than 90 percent of respondents purchased their textbooks at a discounted price or used from online stores.

Some professors offer a helping hand to some students. Students majoring in English also may have an advantage when it comes to buying their required textbooks because many readings can be found online.

Professor Mary Rist taught in Angers, France last spring and made sure that all her students had access to an iPad during their semester abroad so they could access reading through Kindle or Project Gutenberg, the first source for e-books that offers over 40,000 free ebooks. The School of Humanities loaned out 15 or 16 iPads to the students going abroad, who were responsible for returning them at the end of the semester.

“I did this for a couple of reasons,” Rist said. “I didn’t want students lugging heavy books from the US to France and I had heard that ordering books to be delivered there was a long and complicated process.”

Professor Daniel Eaton uses electronic resources that are free and easily accessible for students in his ethics courses as often as possible.

“I do this partly because students already pay for many of these electronic resources, and I want to help them make good use of this resource,” Eaton said.

Louie Morsy ’14 majored in biology at St. Edward’s and says he does not see a problem with the science department’s current approach to textbooks.

“I would rather have an actual hard copy of the book, rather than the e-book,” Morsy said. “Obviously, I think the e-book versus the hard copy is a matter of personal preference, and I think the science department did a great job with our books, especially for the courses using the same book.”

Morsy recalls the most expensive book he had to buy was a molecular biology book, and although it was pricey, it was also the same book required for a different class the next semester.

“I actually thought the professors of the science department were great with helping us when it came to the issue of purchasing textbooks,” Morsy said. “My organic chemistry book was used for both Organic I and Organic II, and the professor even told us not to waste our money on the newest edition, that the changes made were minimal, which of course saved us a lot of money.”