Mariana Fabian Headshot

As the new semester begins, many students find themselves glad to be back on campus. Being back on campus also means the start of classes, which can be stressful and overwhelming. To add to the stress of meeting new people and time management, each course usually requires purchasing a textbook, access code or online course like WebAssign.

Full-time students must maintain a minimum of 12 credit hours, but can enroll in up to 18 without special permissions. With an increase in credit hours, the price of textbooks increases as well. The College Board estimates the annual cost of books and materials for one student at around $1,298.

To gain better insight into how much students spend on textbooks, I created a Google Forms survey and distributed it to three of my professors from the psychology, sociology, and biology departments, respectively. Prior to talking about this survey, it should be stated these results should be not taken as hard facts. This survey is also not necessarily a representative sample of the student body.

Overall, I gained 44 responses from undergraduate and graduate students. A whopping 39 of 44 participants said their main purchases came from Wolfpack Outfitters, which is unfortunate because like many other universities, the prices of textbooks rack up when bought directly from campus.

Many students who responded to my survey have concerns about how professors consider prices while assigning textbooks. Sixteen out of 44 of them said their professors were somewhat unconcerned with the textbooks they choose or the expenses they may cause for students. It’s frustrating to me that many students face the reality of having to work part-time while also being full-time students just to be able to afford the essentials for their education, not to mention the fact that students who live off-campus have to pay for rent, groceries and transportation expenses.

Luckily, there is hope for students here. To create the most reliable survey I could, I spoke with Anna Behler, my professor for PSY 230 Introduction to Psychological Research. As I told her about the reason for my survey, she referred me to a resource called open-source textbooks. According to the Open Textbook Library, “Open textbooks are textbooks that have been funded, published, and licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed. These books have been reviewed by faculty from a variety of colleges and universities to assess their quality. These books can be downloaded for no cost, or printed at a low cost.” This library is actively working to provide affordable and reliable textbooks for all college students.

Textbook prices could make it or break it for students taking a course as well. My roommate was going to take her first German class this semester, but the access code she would’ve had to purchase costs $260. Since she purchases her own textbooks, she couldn’t afford it, and she was forced to drop the class. Professors should start trying their best to decrease textbook prices for their students. Last semester, two of my professors provided PDF links to their textbooks that were free of charge. Wolfpack Outfitters was charging over $50 for each book, and I was able to cut down my textbook expenses for the semester.

If all professors started tailoring their curricula and using resources like open-source textbooks, I feel that many students would be much more passionate about their courses and happy for the decreased expenses. All in all, it would be a win-win situation for our students.