Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Can students really afford textbooks in this day and age?

 With book prices that high, it’s no wonder why students can’t afford to college anymore. Even used copies seem to cost more than necessary.
Nathan Baril
With book prices that high, it’s no wonder why students can’t afford to college anymore. Even used copies seem to cost more than necessary.

Posted on September 14, 2015 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By Zachary Abbotoni, Contributor

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, new textbook prices are a staggering 1041% higher than they were in 1977. This is an astronomical amount which has nearly tripled the rate of inflation within the United States during this time period. This trend of increasing textbook prices is detrimental to students as many are already dependent on student loans and financial aid to pay for schooling. Unfortunately, book companies do not show any signs of lowering their book prices any time soon.

Much like the Pharmaceutical industry, major textbook companies invest in wooing professors and schools rather than in the end consumer, the students, who are the ones ultimately using these books.

Unfortunately many universities and the professors within these universities are not price sensitive, and do not consider a books cost when assigning it to students.  This can make buying books a nightmare for students each semester.

A recent study done by the advocacy group U.S. PIRG stated that the average full time student paid $1,200 yearly on books and other school supplies. This is a massive expense that many students at USM and other college campuses throughout the United States struggle with paying for every semester.

Fortunately, there are ways that we as students can combat this rising expense.  Students can qualify for a textbook and course material tax credit of up to $2,500 annually.  Renting books is one solution that has increased in popularity in recent years, but with renting comes the absence of selling books back at the end of a semester. Some college students have turned to e-books, as they tend to be a bit cheaper than physical books.  Other students have turned to torrenting their books online, although it is illegal, it is completely free.

James Suleiman, a business professor at USM, claims that USM should attempt to move towards being revolutionary in regards to the issuance of their textbooks. Schools such as Purdue and MIT have a multitude of online educational resources that are available for both students and professors to use outside of their universities; and Professor Suleiman believes that USM should strive to do the same.

Professor Suleiman has been an integral part in changing the standard way of buying books for classes. In previous semesters, Professor Suleiman has solely used online articles for his classes, completely negating the cost of buying a textbook. Professor Suleiman’s MBA 674 class still does not use a textbook.

Although he is required to use textbooks for some of his classes, he makes it a point to never use shrink wrapped books, books that have an online access code bundled, so that students will have the ability to buy the books used and sell them back at the end of a semester.

Professor Suleiman is not the only professor at the University of Southern Maine who is striving to diminish what students are spending on textbooks.

Professor Robert Sanford has co-written books that are used within the university, and is currently working on another book which he will use for his ESP 101 class. His goal with these books is to create a product that is both superior in quality and cheaper in price than the books that are currently in use.

According to many students and professors, the textbook market is far from perfect.  

Fortunately, awareness amongst professors at USM is prominent, professors seem to actively search for books that are affordable for their students. Some, such as Professor Suleiman, seek alternative methods such as using online articles, negating book costs altogether whenever possible.