Surviving Textbook Costs By Jacqueline Puglisi | October 10, 2011 | RSS Students every semester hand over hundreds of dollars for textbooks, but efforts are underway to ease the pain. With a national average of over $1,000 per semester for books and supplies, students throughout the country are feeling the sting on their wallets, and BC is no exception. With BC’s bookstore offering textbooks in a price range of $19 to over $220 per book, costs can add up fast on top of the recent increase in tuition. Judy Vannoy, bookstore manager at BC for 11 years, is doing what she can to keep costs down for students. She keeps as many used books on the shelves as possible. Along with books students sell back to the bookstore, she also explores wholesale companies for used copies. Also, with a receipt, students can return textbooks purchased from the bookstore for a 50 percent refund, depending on whether or not the copy will be used the next semester. Vannoy has seen a rise in textbook costs from last semester. For example, business students previously paid an average of $550 for their books. That price is now up to $750. Another issue students have is being able to purchase books with their financial aid refund. Some students this semester have postponed buying textbooks because they have not received financial aid funds to purchase them. Many, even after the start of the semester, do not have all the books they need. A student, who files for financial aid and is eligible for a refund, will have access to those funds via their student ID card to use in the bookstore. The funds are then disbursed to the Business Office after the semester has begun, and students can request a check for the remainder of their refund. The disbursement date for this semester was Sept. 5. Debbie Checchio, financial aid director, explained why students might have a delay in getting their financial aid funds. One reason is turning in documents past the deadline date, which was June 1 for returning students. “We had an incredible number of returning students who did not take care of their financial aid this year, and they showed up days before the semester was to start needing verification, loans, etc.,” Checchio said. She added that a large number of new students who applied for aid in late July and August. Along with students filing past the deadline, a new reporting process has also delayed disbursements for some students’ loan funds. Checchio said she and others in of the financial aid department are doing the best they can to make sure every student eligible receives financial aid. Students are also finding their own ways to cut costs on their books. Of more than 50 people surveyed on campus, a majority said they purchased their textbooks at the bookstore with financial aid money or other means. But other students have saved money by purchasing books online, renting from websites like chegg.com, and splitting the cost with classmates to share textbooks. Some students have even decided not to purchase books this semester because they say they simply could not afford them or felt they would not benefit by having them for class. Students enrolled in BC’s inSPIRE programs have seen a positive change when it comes to the cost of textbooks. Along with a drop in their tuition, inSPIRE students are given a free Dell Netbook they are able to keep and e-books instead of traditional textbooks that are free of charge. Dr. Larry Sinsabaugh, associate vice president for inSPIRE programs, said one of the goals for offering free e-books to students is to defray the cost of going to school. It is also a marketing tool to attract more students to the programs. When looking for course material, inSPIRE instructors are cost conscious and look for the best book within a certain price range. The school covers all the costs for the e-books. If a student decides to have a physical copy of a textbook they would be responsible for that cost. Some e-books can be downloaded onto an e-reader and all of the material is available via the students’ netbooks. Some students had reservations about the new system, but with help from faculty they are making it work for them, said Sinsabaugh. Though the system is not perfect, feedback from students has helped to remove glitches. Sinsabaugh said this is a natural progression for inSPIRE as the future will have many more electronic resources and students need to know how to use them. Dr. Robert Shippey, vice president for academic affairs, said he is concerned with the number of traditional students not purchasing textbooks. He is exploring the option of offering e-books to the campus as a whole. Though there would be a cost to students, it would be lower than a traditional textbook. “My sense is the world we are entering into is a world that is moving beyond bound books,” Shippey said. “We are moving into a virtual world where the text can be electronically deposited onto a student’s computer.” Though he is not sure when that technology would be offered to traditional students at BC, he has been talking with faculty about the possibility. He supports and encourages students and instructors to join in on that conversation to see if a transition from original textbooks to e-books would benefit everyone.