Textbook prices are stacking up according to the College Board, which reports students spend an average of $1,200 on books and supplies each year. Given the necessity of textbooks in college classes, many Miami University students are questioning the high cost.
Sophomore Nathan Mandrell, a double-major in chemistry and political science, said he spent more than $1000 on textbooks for only a semester’s worth of classes.
“Last semester, I spent $980 on textbooks, my organic and physics textbooks cost me $457, and I spent an additional $367 for the lectures and labs,” Mandrell said.
Junior Gabriella Simeone, a double major in Microbiology and Latin American Studies, also feels that the costs of textbooks are too much.
“I rent all of my textbooks and they’re still too much money,” Simeone said. “Professors should only have course packets. Not course packets and textbooks, because that’s too much.”
However, Sarah Thacker, Director of Miami Bookstores, said the average price a Miami student will pay each semester is much lower than the national average.
“It varies from major to major. It’s hard to give a solid number because obviously if you’re a finance major you’re going to be spending a lot more on your course material, than maybe a music major might,” Thacker said. “But on average textbooks are about $300-$350 a semester.”
According to Thacker, students can save up to 50 percent for renting. Last semester, students rented over 5,000 textbooks and this semester’s number is already greater.
However, rather than renting, some students decide to purchase their books on websites such as Amazon, Chegg and Abebooks.
Junior Paige Schmeling is an architecture major who decided to purchase her textbooks online this past semester.
“I purchased mine online using Amazon or Abebooks. I had to buy about six books. They weren’t too bad individually on Amazon, but they definitely add up,” Schmeling said.
If students decide to buy their textbooks at the bookstore, there are a lot of factors that go into the cost, according to Thacker.
“The initial cost of a textbook is determined by the publisher,” Thacker said. “We also have our cost, we have our shipping cost and our labor cost. We employ over 65 students that work here so part of the cost is for them to receive the textbooks and put them on the shelves. We have a very elaborate textbook rental and pick-up program so the cost of labor for running this program and running the full textbook department is a factor in that as well.”
A Feb. 3, 2013 survey from the U.S. Public Interest Research group found 65 percent of college students had at some point decided against buying a textbook because of the high price. Junior Hannah Olenick, a Kinesiology major, said she decided not to buy some of her textbooks.
“I haven’t bought a lot of mine this semester,” Olenick said. “The price is a factor in that decision, but I have also found that I hardly use the textbooks in some of my classes, so it’s a waste.”
Thacker said she believes textbooks are important for a student’s success.
“Textbooks are important. We talk to a lot of professors, we take orders directly from them,” Thacker said. “They take time in designing their syllabus and designing their course. They spend a lot of time and care picking out their textbooks so if they’re using their textbooks for the course then it’s absolutely required.”
For students who are having difficulty paying for textbooks, the university can offer some help, according to Brent Shock, the director of Student Financial Assistance.
“We do have some aid that the university offers, if students are having trouble buying a book we offer a combination of a loan with 0 percent interest that they pay back throughout the semester,” Shock said. “We also have a small number of book grants.”
Thacker said she wants students to realize the bookstore is a helpful resource.
“We’re here to help. We’re a resource to students. We do talk to students that are trying to save money the best way possible,” Thacker said. “I would encourage students if they’re in a tight mind to talk to us and see what we can do because we are here to help.”