Students who enter community college today might be dismayed to find that hefty tuition payments are just the beginning of a potentially expensive college career. In addition to the annual tuition costs, textbooks have become a major expense for many students, with some books easily costing more than $100 to bring a grand total for a single semester well into the $500-$1,000 range.
Cash-strapped students are often on the lookout for affordable solutions to the textbook issue, and fortunately, help is available. Through a variety of programs offered on community college campuses and across the Internet, students are finding they can save a bundle on the textbooks they need.
A report last year on U.S. News and World Report cited a number of options students could explore to save money on college textbooks, including:
- Using textbook rental services
- Borrowing textbooks from libraries
- Participating in textbook exchanges
- Getting textbooks for free or nearly free online
- Finding used textbooks at a reduced price
While all of these options offer their own advantages and drawbacks, using a variety of methods to secure all the textbooks you need for any given semester can reap serious rewards in terms of saving money. In addition to the tried and true savings programs, some college professors are getting involved in the affordable textbook cause to find resources for students that provide them with the information they need to ace a class without going into the red to do so.
Someone once said that "the best things in life are free," and that is especially true when it comes to college textbooks. Some of the free options for getting the resources you need might include:
- Borrowing from the local library
- Borrowing an extra copy from the professor
- Book exchanges found online or on campus
- Online textbooks that can be accessed at no charge
Two math professors at community colleges in Ohio have banded together to produce a free e-textbook, "College Algebra," for their students, according to a report from WKYC.com. Lakeland Community College professor Dr. Carl Stitz, and Lorain County Community College professor Dr. Jeff Zeager co-wrote the textbook in an effort to improve the quality of college math textbooks, as well as make them more affordable to students.
The textbook can be downloaded for free by students. If they prefer, they can also order a printed copy of the textbook for the cost of printing and binding, which totals less than $20 per book. The professors have been approached by many publishers, but have declined to publish their textbook in favor of keeping it affordable to students. Colleagues across the country have applauded their efforts, and Dr. Stitz was recently named among the outstanding faculty at University System of Ohio Institutions for creating integrated digital content for his courses.
Another option for free online textbooks can be found at the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources. This website offers a long list of textbooks available online for free, and the roster is growing all the time. Some of the material is considered "open", which means professors can create new, high-quality content by using these "open" public domain and fair use materials already available. Professors can revamp and customize the material to their specific purpose. Other content offered through the website is free to view and use online, but is not open to customization.
The Community College Open Textbook Collaborative is another network encouraging the creation of free content for college courses. The organization includes:
- Training for instructors who want to adopt open resources
- Peer reviews of open textbooks
- Support for authors opening their resources
- A professional network for those interested in creating or using open resources
There are numerous textbooks already available through the Community College Open Textbook Collaborative, and the organization is hoping to expand that number all the time.
In addition to the free and almost free textbook resources listed here, students can also save many on resources through shopping websites like Amazon and eBay or through purchasing or renting used textbooks. As the demand for affordable textbooks increases, more options are opening up to students who simply cannot afford the hefty book fees on top of the already steep tuition rates.
If you are a student struggling financially to earn your degree, there is help available. Through open textbook options or many of the other alternatives listed here, you can find a way to save a bundle on the textbooks you need each semester.