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Where students go to keep textbook costs low

With the thousands of dollars that students spend to earn their degree, the additional hundreds of dollars worth of textbooks is a price some students try to avoid at all costs.

Jiselle Santos/The Cougar

With the thousands of dollars that students spend to earn their degree, the additional hundreds of dollars worth of textbooks is a price some students try to avoid at all costs.

The University estimates the costs of books and supplies at $1,338 per year. When these textbooks are required to complete their respective courses, some students react negatively for having to pay more for a class they have previously paid tuition for. Purchasing used textbooks, searching for PDFs online, or renting and buying digital copies are some ways students try to reduce costs. 

 “I think school textbook stores are a scam,” said civil engineering junior Dadi Hamel. “Everything is so overpriced and don’t even get me started on access codes. Every year publishers release the exact same textbook and just release it as a new edition so they can up the price on the book.”

When purchasing required textbooks, some students are forced to sacrifice other resources to fund their education. Forty-three percent of college students have skipped meals to save money for course materials, according to a study conducted by Cengage, a company that creates educational content.

School in and of itself is already expensive, why patronize us, especially freshmen who don’t know any better, into spending money that we don’t have?” Hamel said. “That’s why I love professors who allow you to use previous editions of textbooks that you can find at the library or even online.”

Often required textbooks are produced by the same handful of publishers. Having multiple courses require textbooks from the same company can create incentives to sell textbook subscriptions, such as Cengage Unlimited. Larger textbook companies can influence the industry standard for pricing.

“I really think that we as college students should take a stand against publishers like Pearson and McGraw Hill for overpricing books,” Hamel said. “Something must be done.”

Some students purchase older editions of textbooks to cut costs. Used copies of older book editions are frequently sold online and by students who have previously taken the course.

“Usually I ask the professor if an older edition is fine, so I’ve been getting all of my textbooks used for $15-$20 each, and it’s almost the exact same as the edition we are using in class,” said chemistry freshman Michelle Tran.

Textbooks can be purchased online and picked up at the bookstore as an option for students who purchase their textbooks through the campus bookstore. Additionally, the campus bookstore has renting services as an alternative to buying textbooks.

“Ordering from the bookstore online and renting is way better and you don’t have to wait in the long lines that occur during the first week of classes,” said biology freshman Princess Ezeadi.

Online retailers, such as Amazon, often sell textbooks required for a course, making books more available for remote students who are not on campus frequent enough to purchase their books from the University bookstore.

“I bought all UH textbooks from Amazon,” said UH alumni Hunter Davis Crucet.

To avoid textbook costs altogether, some students have shared looking for free digital copies online. Certain textbooks can be found through online libraries. Physical libraries, such as MD Anderson Library, sometimes carry limited amounts of popular textbooks, available to checkout. 

“I look up the name of the book followed by PDF on Google,” said public health sophomore Joshua Romano.

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