HomeStudent LifeTextbook costs pose challenge for students, faculty

Textbook costs pose challenge for students, faculty

Photo by Chris Swann and graphic by Madison Heiser

One essential supply nearly every college student must purchase is textbooks. In an era of increasingly digitized media, textbooks are becoming more available in the form of ebooks and bundles requiring single-use access codes. Considering countless students pay for books and supplies out-of-pocket, many pose the question: why are textbooks so expensive, and how can students minimize the cost? 

Though tuition at community and junior colleges is typically less expensive than four-year colleges, two-year students spend more money on general out-of-pocket expenses. According to CollegeBoard, an in-district student at a public two-year institution spends an average of $1,440 per year on books and supplies, compared to $1,240 per year at both private and public four-year institutions. Tyler Junior College estimates a student’s average cost of books and supplies at $1,800 per year. 

*lowest listed prices, editions may vary; subject to change 

TJC freshman Jayla Black shared her thoughts about textbook costs. 

“I spent almost $500 on four books. It’s harder for those on financial aid, like with loans. I still had to pay for classes,” Black said. 

Some students have had little to no issues purchasing textbooks this semester. 

“My experience purchasing textbooks this year has been really good,” said Genesis Baze, a freshman at TJC. “I don’t think there is anything unfair about textbook prices.”

According to Vox, a general interest news site, four textbook publishers control more than 80% of the market: Pearson, Cengage, Wiley and McGraw-Hill. Because of the lack of competition among textbook publishers, these major companies can inflate prices with the understanding that their books are the only ones available to students. Additionally, in the current digital age, these publishers are manufacturing single-use access codes for ebooks and digital content that prevent students from buying used books. Some professors require these access codes in their courses for the convenience of digital content. 

“I feel like half the stuff they sell shouldn’t be so expensive,” Black said. “Some people are really short on money, especially because of COVID. Now’s a time more than ever to drop the prices,” Black said. 

Many TJC students have expressed frustration with the campus bookstore’s online resources. Some books are listed in students’ required course materials online, but professors do not require those books in their courses. 

“I think TJC could do a better job of letting you know which books you need,” Baze said. 

TJC Bookstore Manager Karan Sustaire gave insight into how the bookstore determines textbook listings. 

“We get the adoptions from the director of the department for all the sections. If there is one instructor who determines, ‘I don’t need the book,’ we don’t know. We are not given that information,” Sustaire said. “If we were given that, it would be extremely helpful … then we wouldn’t have this return issue.”

Some colleges, including TJC, allow students to utilize financial aid to pay for textbooks. However, this often requires students to rent or buy books at full price through the institution’s bookstore, racking up costs and potentially inflating student loans. For students without financial aid or those wishing to minimize student debt, textbooks must be purchased with personal funds. 

Despite the rising costs of textbooks, there are several resources available to help students save money. Amazon offers digital and used versions of textbooks for both temporary and permanent use. Chegg.com also offers used textbooks, as well as a platform for students to sell textbooks they no longer need. 

Latest comments
  • I believe that the prices are too high as well. I am married with dual incomes and had no problems paying for my books but that did not change the fact that I cringed at the total when I went to purchase them. I also feel like the rental prices for the digital books are too high as well. With the printing, paper, ink, binding, writers, content, and editors, I at least understand the prices on physical books. But digital books do not pull the initial capital to make and can be reproduced very easily.

  • Textbook prices are high especially at the bookstore, but I think other ways are available for students. I know I prefer to buy them from Amazon or Chegg just because it is more efficient and cheaper. Although I do not think the prices are fair I think it evens out at TJC like you said TJC is a cheaper school compared to others, but books are higher in price.

  • I think textbooks and access codes are way too expensive for college students who most of the time don’t have jobs have to ask their parents for help to pay for it.

  • My biggest problem with textbooks, is that hardly any of them are available in a digital format. My parents searched high and low for nearly a month to get my textbooks digitally before giving in and buying what we could, mixing physical and digital copies of textbooks.

  • It’s crazy that the cost of books is this high, both physical and digital, depending on what book you buy. Amazon is where I’m starting to get most of my textbooks.

  • Prices for textbooks are too expensive, and to be honest I don’t understand why textbooks aren’t included in tuition. If I need something for the class doesn’t it make sense to pay for it when I pay for the class.

  • Thank you for this good information! “Textbook costs pose challenge for students”
    You can also post your used books/textbooks in: https://torpage.com
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  • I think this information provided in this article was very enlightening! I think it is outrageous how expensive textbooks and access codes can be. I think there needs to be a serious drop in prices, considering students already have to pay tuition.

  • I do think because ebooks are slowly becoming the main way for students to read there books, they should dramatically decrease the price of them, since it is not a physical hard copy that a student is buying. Physical materials aren’t being used because of this, which would make sense to decrease the price of them. At least that’s what I would think.

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