Discover creative solutions to high priced textbooks

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September 15, 2009

New classes inevitably bring new expenses, and soon students will begin to shuffle into the Mills bookstore with their syllabi in hand, hopeful there are still some used copies left of the books they need.

The high price of textbooks has become the norm at colleges across the nation with individual titles costing as much as $200 new.

The New York Times reports that students now spend an average of $700 to $1,100 a year on textbooks, leaving some students struggling to afford them.

Frustrated by the lack of resources for low-income students while completing her undergraduate education at Mills, Mical Asefaw, who has since continued on to Mills’ MBA graduate program, took a stand.

Asefaw decided to start a club called Infinite Potential last semester to address the academic, social and financial challenges that many Mills students face.

Among Infinite Potential’s many programs is a book lending library, which rents out donated textbooks to the students that need them free of charge.

To Asefaw, the program is a practical application of what she learned as an undergraduate business economics major, and is highly rooted in her own financial struggles. The high price of textbooks has been a financial hurdle for her, one that has even jeopardized her education.

“I would think ‘wow, I don’t even know if I can stay in school.’ But I would get in survivor mode,” she said. “I would ask people for money [for books] and that was really hard so I didn’t want that for other people.”

Infinite Potential’s book lending program is only one semester old, but has so far helped six students save about $1000.

The program relies exclusively on book donations from other students, and Asefaw said she has been delighted at the level of generosity that many Mills students have. “I want to create a culture where students rely on students,” she said.

“Its heart wrenching… to know that the student sitting next to you, in spite of how happy she is, is struggling to stay in that seat.”

Aside from Infinite Potential, students who have a hard time paying for textbooks can also rent them from Chegg.com.

The price varies depending on the book and the rental duration, but the majority of textbooks can be rented for $9.99 per semester. Once the rental period is over, students print a prepaid label and mail the textbook back to Chegg.com for free.

The eco-friendly business also plants a tree for every textbook they rent out and, according to their website, they have planted 750 acres of trees so far.

According to the New York Times, Chegg.com’s system might soon become standard at college bookstores. Follett Higher Education Group, which operates the Mills College bookstore, is piloting a rental program this semester at a dozen locations, including California State University in Sacramento. Depending on the success of the pilot, Follett’s rental program may expand to its other locations.

Even better than rentals, Mills student Gigi Gamble suggested, is when professors do not require any books at all.

“The glory of it all is when teachers have everything on e-reserves, to be printed or checked out,” Gamble said.

“God bless all professors who can and do rely on the Mills library for all their reading!”


Discover creative solutions to high priced textbooks was published on September 15, 2009 in Features and tagged with , ,

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