Students need alternatives

By Editorial Board

An activist organization, Student Public Interest Research Groups, rallied at Truman College on Sept. 15 to protest the ever-rising costs of textbooks in a movement they call the “Textbook Rebellion.” The group has traveled to college campuses across the country since the start of the fall semester, rallying restive students who feel administrators are unsympathetic to the financial burden placed on them. Thousands of students have already signed their petition, urging higher education leaders to lower the cost of textbooks.

According to the National Association of College Stores, the average full-time student spent $667 on textbooks during the 2009–2010 school year, and the average textbook costs $62. This is far too much, especially when tuition is factored in.

Textbooks can be a hidden fee for attending school. They aren’t included in tuition and students often don’t know which books they must buy before a class starts. Although there is a tab on Oasis that says which books are required for a course, many teachers tell their students not to buy the books or buy different ones, and so students have learned to take the wait-and-see approach.

Columbia has no effective message telling students there are cheaper alternatives to buying books than its campus store, and younger students often think this is their only option. It’s up to the individual teachers to advise their pupils, and many suggest Columbia’s store. Numerous classes that require books use them only sparingly throughout the year, making their price tag even more frustrating. Books should be supplemental to the actual lessons, especially at a school focused on the arts.

These high costs drive prospective students away from attending school. Higher education is crucial in today’s global economy, and an undereducated workforce will only lead to more economic problems in the future.

“Textbook Rebellion” has come up with alternatives, giving students information on publishers that sell free e-book versions of textbooks and hard-copy books for between $20 and $40, as well as rentable books.

Student PIRGs is right in asking college administrators to assist in lowering costs. Colleges make a profit from books sold in their campus stores on top of the enormous cost of tuition, and thus have no incentive to advertise other alternatives.

Columbia’s administration needs to rethink its textbook policy. Too many students who already spend nearly $30,000 on tuition and housing cannot afford to buy books that are used approximately three times a year. New books at the campus store should be a last resort for students. There is no reason schools shouldn’t give students all available resources when shopping for books.