Students find cheaper ways to go ‘buy' the book

By Susan Simpson Published: August 19, 2007
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University of Central Oklahoma freshman Thomas Harrold received his first economics lesson last week.

The finance major shopped at the campus bookstore for textbooks he'll need when classes start Monday.

"It's not like high school, where the books are free,” he said, estimating he'll spend up to $500 on books unless he can find some online or used.

As the fall semester begins, so does the book-buying. The U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that a typical college student spends an average $900 a year on instructional supplies.

Students like Harrold say they are relying more on online purchases of new and used books, swapping books with other students and sharing texts.

Pressure from legislators and State Regents has Oklahoma colleges and universities looking for new ways to reign in student costs.

What the law says
A higher education bill passed this year says:

• Universities must unbundle book packages so that students can choose whether to buy study guides, computer discs and other supplemental items often packaged with the assigned textbook.

• Publishers must let faculty know how much textbooks cost and how new editions vary from previous ones.

• Campus employees are prohibited from accepting payment or inducement for assigning a specific textbook.

Campuses across the state have announced other efforts to reduce costs, including establishing grant programs to help students buy books, stocking more used books and using electronic versions as they come on the market.

What schools are doing
• The University of Oklahoma library now stocks several books each for 250 general education classes.

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Publishers' response
According to the Association of American Publishers:

•The changing needs of instructors and student preference are driving the development, and cost, of new textbooks and learning tools.

•Publishers offer more choices for low-cost texts, including customized versions.

•College students spend more on electronics, cell phones, dorm decor and their cars than they do on textbooks.

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