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The truth about textbook prices

"As is the same at many higher education institutions, a number of NCC classes require students to purchase books published by the college that are tailored to course content." -Photo courtesy Adam Soltys

The Public Interest Research group (www.uspirg.org) estimates that the average college student will spend over $1,100 on textbooks alone per year.

Factoring in tuition fees, housing and transport costs makes going to college an expensive endeavor.

“The cost of books is ridiculous,” said Emily MacBride, Communication Studies/RN major.

“I try to buy from students, so I pay less and they get some [money] back. I also try to find the lowest price on the web,” she added.

One student, a Medical Administrative Assistant major who preferred to remain anonymous, said she had to take out a student loan to cover the $405.74 book cost for one single class.

“Textbook cost is primarily driven by the publisher,” said Northampton Community College bookstore manager Mike Moore.

“The bookstore helps students save on textbooks by offering choices like rental, digital and the largest selection of used books in the industry,” he added.

The NCC bookstore is operated by Follet Bookstore Management, and a portion of sales from the store help fund scholarships and campus programs.

Kayla Strawn, a sophomore Business Administration major, said “I took five classes, all needing their own textbooks. The total was about $850, though it would have been around $1000 if I had not rented and chose the loose leaf option when available. That’s only a few hundred shy of my tuition cost for the semester.”

Included in Kayla’s book haul were Contemporary Biology ($92 rented), Arriba! Elementary Spanish 1 ($205 new), Management Fundamentals ($131 new), Microeconomics with Connect Plus ($236.50 new) and NCC’s custom Managerial Accounting ($162 new).

“I despise the fact that there are NCC specific books because you cannot sell them anywhere but at the college. They are usually more expensive than their non-NCC counterpart. I go [to Northampton] because it’s what I could afford, but now I’m struggling as the price of textbooks continues to rise,” said Strawn.

As is the same at many higher education institutions, a number of NCC classes require students to purchase books published by the college that are tailored to course content. Which classes require students to purchase an NCC custom textbook are determined by individual departments.

“The bookstore’s role is to partner with faculty in exploring cost-saving options,” Moore said.

 

“A good example of this occurred this past fall when the bookstore and the biology department worked together to turn a custom textbook into a rental option for students, saving students about 50% compared to purchasing new,” he added.

It isn’t just the high cost of books themselves irking students, it seems that some are disgruntled by classes that state certain books are required but are seldom used in class.

“The only thing that bothers me is I go to get my ‘required textbook’ and then my professor says we don’t need it. We just end up never opening it and then we are broke with textbooks we don’t even need,” said Sabrina May R, a Fine Arts major.

Breanne Giberson, an Early Education major agrees. She said “I spent almost $300 on a math book and didn’t open it once all semester.”

Another common issue is the disparity of textbook use between class sections.

Gabe Dart, a Computer Information Technology major said “I bought the Computer Technology 1 textbook for $300 yesterday. The code inside is worth about $100 alone and not all Computer Tech 1 classes use these codes,” he said.

“My class doesn’t, but my friend’s class did. With a lack of consistency like that, the school or teacher should give their students a heads up if they need the code or not, because if they don’t they can buy the alternative book which is cheaper,” he added.

As technology becomes a valuable educational tool, the NCC bookstore is attempting to make textbooks with online access codes cheaper for students to purchase.

“Access codes like MyMathLab, MyITLab, Connect, and other products are being bundled with textbooks, which can make the textbooks less expensive than buying the book and access code separately,” said Moore.

There are some steps students can take in order to keep the cost of their books down.

“My advice to students is to start shopping early for first dibs on popular options like rental and used textbooks,” said Moore.

“Depending on what class you are taking, how you learn or study, and what fits within your budget – there is a different course material choice that is right for you. Feel free to ask any of our associates for help when navigating through the various cost-saving programs available at the bookstore,” he added.

Students can also check the Northampton Community College Used Book page to find a second hand version of an expensive textbook. Access it here – www.facebook.com/groups/220581281461721/?fref=ts or search for it on Facebook.