There is no denying that college is becoming more and more expensive with each passing year. According to a recent study, the average annual cost for tuition at a 4-year college is more than $30,000 – and that doesn’t even cover everything! Paying for college is like signing a contract with a new cable service provider. After doing the research you finally choose a provider based on a specific published price. But when it comes time to sign the contract you find out that there are all of these unexpected fees involved – service fees, taxes, etc. And then the price for service skyrockets after the first year!
With college, hidden costs are everywhere. The amount you pay the school each semester (or each year) probably only covers your tuition, maybe even room and board. But there are so many other things you are going to need to make it through the year – basic school supplies, clothing, transportation and, of course, textbooks. Many students underestimate the cost of textbooks but they actually end up being a significant expense for many students. Keep reading to learn just how much you should expect to pay for textbooks during school and how you can cost those costs a little bit.
How Much Do Textbooks Really Cost?
Though there are certainly some college classes that do not require them, most classes are based around one or more textbooks. This means that in addition to paying tuition and room and board, many students must also pay for textbooks for all or most of their classes each semester. Depending how many classes you take (and how many textbooks the professor uses), you could be looking at an extra thousand dollars or more each semester. According to the National Association of College Stores, the average sale price for a new textbook has increased from about $57 in 2007 to $82 in 2014. Furthermore, College Board states that the average student spends over $1,200 per year in textbooks.
A news video posted on CNBC.com discusses the rising cost of textbooks for college students, suggesting that the price of textbooks has risen more quickly than the cost of inflation over the past decade. Between 2002 and 2013, the average price for college textbooks jumped 82% - that is three times higher than the rate of inflation! The rising cost of textbooks has some serious implications for students who are already struggling to pay their tuition. In fact, a study of 2,000 college students from around the country have said the following things:
- About 48% of students polled said that the prohibitive cost of textbooks had a significant impact on how many and which courses they took.
- About 65% of students polled admitted that they had decided against buying the textbook for a class because it was too expensive.
- Nearly 95% of students who admitted that they skipped buying the required book for a class were legitimately concerned that it would hurt their grade.
Rising costs in college textbooks can be attributed to several things. For example, new editions are released every three to four years, regardless whether there is any actual change to the subject material. Some professors even assign multiple textbooks for a single class, sometimes without even using them.
Money-Saving Tips to Reduce the Cost of Textbooks
As expensive as it is to buy brand new college textbooks, sometimes there is no other option. The highest prices for college textbooks can usually be found at the campus store, though sometimes prices are high all around. But before you resign yourself to spending hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on new textbooks each semester, try some of these money-saving tips:
- Check the syllabus for each class before the semester starts – you should be able to find out whether all of the textbooks are required or if some are optional. You may also find that you don’t need some of the books until later in the semester.
- Refer to the syllabus or ask your professor if older editions of the book are acceptable – you may have to deal with the hassle of differing page numbers, but if the content is still largely the same you might be able to get away with it.
- Check your campus or community library to see if they have a copy of the book – keep in mind that copies will be limited to check them out early. There may also be a limit to the number of times you can renew the book.
- Shop around for lower prices on textbooks – you may be able to find used versions of the textbook online or even at the campus store. You can also try talking to students who have previously taken the same class to see if they still have their book.
- Consider renting the textbook if the option is available – this is a great option for textbooks that you won’t be needing after the end of the semester.
- Think about sharing or trading textbooks with other students – ask your friends which classes they are taking and see if you can arrange a trade for textbooks. If a friend is taking the same class as you, think about whether you can get away with sharing a copy of the book.
- Look around to see if an electronic version of the book is available – this can save you a lot of money if your only option is the newest edition of a certain book.
In addition to trying these money-saving tips for textbooks, don’t forget to try and get some of your money back at the end of the semester! Most college bookstores will buy back books from students at the end of each semester. Keep in mind, however, that you may be able to get a better price online – book stores want to buy the books as cheap as they can and sell them for as much as they can.
Other Unexpected Costs for College Students
The rising cost of textbooks is a serious concern for many college students but it is not the only cost to worry about. Each year, costs for tuition and room and board continue to climb and new hidden fees are always popping up. Here are some unexpected costs that many college students find themselves facing:
- Laundry – many on-campus housing solutions offer coin-op laundry or you might have to use a local laundromat.
- Cell phone bills – mobile technology is becoming increasingly more proliferate but cell phone bills can be expensive!
- Eating out – if you live off-campus you might have to pay for and cook all of your own meals.
- Transportation – whether you own a car, take the bus, or ride your bike you should factor in the cost of transportation each semester.
- School supplies – in addition to textbooks you’ll need notebooks, folders, and pens or pencils. You might also need a laptop unless you want to spend all of your time at the computer lab.
Many people are concerned that, before long, the cost of college will become completely prohibitive. Already millions of students are struggling to cover the cost of tuition each year, drowning in loans before they even graduate. Going to college is expensive, there is no denying it, but there are some simple things you can do to cut costs and those little things add up quick. Be smart about how you purchase and use your textbooks to help mitigate the cost of a college education.