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Cost Of College Textbooks Essay Contest

The college textbook industry is changing, and unfortunately, the outcome is not favorable to college students trying to attend college on a student budget. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) has found that textbook companies are creating a monopoly on the textbook market with the introduction of access codes.

Textbook access codes must be purchased by an individual for their course, and they provide digital access to the textbook, homework assignments, quizzes and any other supplemental materials. Once the access code is used, it becomes useless, according to the report Access Denied by U.S. PIRG. It’s a one-time code for one individual. This doesn’t seem too problematic until you figure in the fact that many students resell their books at the end of the semester, loan it to friends or check out textbooks from the library instead of buying them.

In their statement on The Huffington Post, U.S. PIRG revealed that they found approximately 32% of courses included access codes in the necessary materials at colleges across the country. At campus bookstores, the cost for an access code averaged $100.24. Only 28% of bookstore access codes came in an unbundled form, meaning students had to buy other products in addition to the access code.

U.S. PIRG points out that access codes now limit student choices when it comes to their textbooks. They state on The Huffington Post, “In one swoop, the publishers remove a student’s ability to opt-out of buying their product, eliminate any and all competition in the market, and look good doing it because the codes are cheaper than publisher’s exorbitantly priced textbooks.” They further go on to point out:

  • Access codes remove the ability to share textbooks or borrow from the library, which is especially difficult on those students that already face financial hardship when paying for college.
  • Including assignments, quizzes and tests in the electronic format requires students to purchase the product instead of having the ability to opt-out.
  • Switching to an entirely electronic format eliminates any kind of oversupply, and thereby the used book market.

There is nothing wrong with the access codes, in and off themselves. It’s the fact that they are not reusable and may force students into buying course materials who might have otherwise found a free or low-cost alternative. Whether or not the textbook industry will change their stance on access codes remains to be unseen. After all, access codes are relatively new to the textbook market. But for now, students lack the freedom to choose to buy the access codes or go without, which means an increase in profits for textbook companies, according to U.S. PIRG.

Do you use access codes for your college courses? Do you love them – or hate them?

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College Textbook Scholarships

Need Help Paying for Your Books?

According to the most recent comprehensive report from the Government Accountability Office, the average cost of books for each freshman attending a four-year public university in the 2003-04 school year was $898.00. At four-year schools, book costs were found to account for 25% of college expenses and at community colleges the relative price tag was even higher.

The National Association of College Stores estimated the cost of a year’s books at $702 based on data compiled for the organization’s 2008 publication, Student Watch.  The student advocacy group, College Board, reported estimated 2006-2007 school year spending averages of $800-$1200 for books and supplies, depending on what program a student chooses.  And the Board’s most timely review zero’s the number in at $1168 per student, per year.

The data bears it out:  College textbooks are expensive.  But most university students don’t need a think tank to make that determination.  For them, textbook expenses create ongoing funding challenges that require creative financial aid solutions.

Half.com is a biased retailer of student media, but survey results from a 1,000 person sampling indicated that half the students polled would dip into their savings to cover the cost of books. And a majority (56%) of those surveyed also admitted that they have put off acquiring the necessary materials for their classes because of the cost.  One in six students reportedly chose not to enroll in or dropped a class because of the cost of the required textbooks.

Fortunately, there is relief for college students having trouble paying for books.  Prudent buying strategies help ease the impact of textbook costs, and various forms of financial assistance can be applied to textbooks and related classroom supplies.

Textbook Budgeting 101

Full-freight retail is the price publishers would like to see you pay for textbooks, but the model is unsustainable for cash-strapped college students.  When the newest edition is required, or when publications contain time-sensitive data, the cost of new books is unavoidable, but in some cases it is still possible to save money on books.

  • Rent – Some campuses facilitate book rental which provides one of the most cost effective textbook solutions.
  • Online Resources – Some textbook values are realized by buying books from online textbook clearinghouses.
  • Used Books – The perennial hand me down method has served generations of college students, who recycle textbooks until course material requirements are updated.
  • E-Books – Technology is opening this door for some college textbooks.  If your required textbooks are available for your e-reader it is the least expensive road to travel.

Familiar Resources Cover Books

College budgets contain entries for tuition, meals, housing, transportation, fees and of course; books.  For students assembling college financing packages, where the money goes is not nearly as important as covering the total cost of a college education.  Filling the financial aid pool follows a standardized protocol that starts with filing the most important catch-all financial aid request: the FAFSA.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the standardized federal application that is also used by states and other financial aid guarantors.  Textbook scholarships don’t always require data provided on the FAFSA,  but so much financial assistance starts with filing the form that it pays to submit the completed application well before the filing deadline.

Federal, state and private financial aid is generally not restricted for use buying textbooks, so scholarships, grants and loans are fair game for textbook financing.  If money remains after tuition is paid, use Pell Grants and Federal Direct Loans to underwrite bookstore bills.  And include targeted textbook scholarships as part of your plan.  These examples illustrate the range of textbook philanthropy sponsored by associations, foundations and other student benefactors.

Helping Hands Book Scholarship Program

One-time awards of $100.00 – $1,000.00 are awarded to college/university, technical, vocational, and graduate students. High school students (over the age of 16) are invited to apply for aid directed toward one of these institutions of higher learning.  Applicants must attend an institution in the United States, Canada, or Mexico. Funding is available for fall and spring semesters.

The Passageway Scholarship Program

Passageway Scholarship Foundation helps challenged youth groups gain footings in higher education.  Scholarships and book grants help neglected and delinquent students reach their career and educational goals.  Funding applies to programs at 4-year universities, community colleges and trade schools.  Recipients have attended schools like Pepperdine, University of Utah and Mesa Community College.

WIHE Book Scholarship

To help offset the cost of college textbooks for female college students, Women in Higher Education helps raise money and grants its own book scholarships.  Several scholarships are distributed annually at multiple college campuses across the U.S. 

Barnes and Noble Book Scholarships

Corporate philanthropy funds campus-based book scholarships sponsored by the retail book giant.  At Pace University, each Barnes and Noble award is valued at $500 per semester.  Successful applicants are full-time undergraduate students with grade point averages above 2.0.  Financial need, as demonstrated by FAFSA results is required for application.  Each participating campus provides multiple awards annually.

Carl A. Scott Book Scholarships

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) awards two $500.00 scholarships each year to students completing their final years of study in CSWE-accredited Bachelor’s and a Masters Degree programs in Social Work.   Applicants from these diverse student groups are encouraged: Puerto Rican, Asian American, American Indian, African American, and Mexican American.  Equity and social justice provide the scholarship’s theme.

NACE Book Scholarship Program

The NACE Foundation invites graduate students who are Student Members of NACE to apply for book scholarships worth up to $1,000 each. The purpose of the scholarships is to help graduate students establish or add to their personal libraries of corrosion-related books. North American and International students are eligible to apply with qualifying GPA information, and two written recommendations. Successful applicants wishing to accept their award in person, at the NACE Annual Conference, are eligible for financial assistance to help defray the cost of travel.

Re-Entry Student Book Scholarship

Utah State University provides unique textbook resources for students returning to college after an absence.  The school’s book scholarships are reserved for students who have experienced five-year absences from college, within the previous six-years.  Returning students exhibiting commitments to academic success are evaluated for the award based on scholastic performance and other metrics.  The program specifically benefits students on the USU Tooele Campus, and awards may not be transferred to other schools.

Casimiro Foundation Book Scholarships

Business students from two and four-year programs benefit from Casimiro Global Foundation assistance. Under the organization’s book scholarship program, applicants enrolled full or part-time must maintain college GPA standards of at least 2.0 to remain eligible.  Awards are distributed based on the financial needs of qualified applicants.

Since book scholarships are often campus-specific or regionally distributed, your college financial aid office is always the best source for up-to-date student aid information.



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