Spring semester provides all things new: classes, routines and opportunities to get involved on campus.

However, a new semester also brings the harsh reality of buying textbooks for classes.

With a hefty tuition bill and other expenses that pop up over the semester, buying textbooks is another cost that college students have no option but to deal with.

If not, they are put at a disadvantage for learning the course material and participating in class discussions.

According to College Board, college students spend an average of $1,200 on textbooks and other school supplies. When textbooks are bundled with access codes, which can only be used once, students have no choice but to pay retail over discounted prices.

Although I am only entering my second semester of college, I have noticed a frustrating pattern within my classes and those of my peers: we buy books for classes that are marked as “required materials” on the syllabus only to reference them a few times throughout the semester.

This places students in a tricky situation, where not buying the textbook puts them at a disadvantage for learning the material, but buying it wastes money when they are used a handful of times.

Rising prices of textbooks hurts those who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage.

For those that are paying their own tuition, rent and other random expenses, books used for only months or weeks at a time are rarely worth the cost.

Textbook prices also impact students of different majors disproportionately — those enrolled in science, technology, engineering or math classes spend more money on textbooks and school supplies compared to other majors, according to Vox.

Although it was the choice of these students to study these topics, it is not fair that they are financially punished for pursuing their passions and interests.

Laundry lists of textbooks can also infringe on sustainability efforts.

The demand for physical textbooks, especially buying new books, requires an abundance of resources that harm the environment when you factor in emissions produced from shipping the textbooks, the amount of paper used and potential for books to end up in landfills once they have reached the end of their usability.

Although the rising cost of college textbooks seems to be a problem with no solution, there are some alternatives to buying and renting physical textbooks.

A popular alternative more students are turning to is e-book subscription services, such as Scribd, Chegg and VitalSource.

Not only are these websites more environmentally conscious, they also provide a less expensive and more transportable alternative to buying and carrying physical textbooks.

There has also been an increase in professors opting to distribute readings online as opposed to requesting for students to buy textbooks.

These solutions provide inexpensive, or free, alternatives for those that need them, but a majority of classes still require students to purchase or rent physical copies.

Realistically, the problem of increasing textbook costs will not solve itself.

However, it is important to create and promote alternatives for those who cannot or prefer not to buy textbooks at retail prices.

Students and professors must communicate in solving this problem in order to find ways of learning that benefit the community without breaking the bank.

 

Catherine Vaughn is a staff writer.

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