Every semester, there is one thing students often dread more than actually going to class: making the trip to State Street to buy their books. For some, it is akin to admitting school is actually starting. But for the majority of students, it is knowing that four months from now they will never again see most of the money they spent.
Many students spend at least $300 a semester on books and are lucky if they get a fraction of that back when they return their books. Of course, some good reasons exist to justify why the bookstores cannot buy back the books, necessities such as course packets, lab notebooks and, our personal favorite, new textbook editions (because still newer editions are coming out).
However, besides for a few logical policies, the bookstores have numerous policies that are frustrating and absurd. Trying to return paperback books and receiving 50 cents back for each book is one such example of these policies. Are these garage sales or reputable bookstores we are dealing with here?
Another annoying example most every student experiences is buying one huge book costing a small fortune, only to receive pocket change back at the end of the semester. An even more frustrating scenario is that many of the classes students take, especially in the first two years, are outside their majors and are only taken to fill graduation requirements. It seems pointless to sell back these classes’ books for such a small amount of money, but many students have no use for the books once the class is finished.
When it comes down to it, something must change or else, year-after-year, semester-after-semester, students will have to deal with these problems. It’s obvious the bookstores are not going lower prices or increase buyback amounts at the end of the semester, so different options must be pursued.
Many students have already begun to explore these options by buying their books online or attending book sales. These are excellent ideas, but for the most part the success of these plans hinges on one thing: cooperation from professors and the university.
When ordering books online, a delay from when a student orders a book to when they actually have the book in hand is common. Because of this reality, texts need to be ordered a few weeks before classes begin. For this to be possible, students must know which required books they will need for a certain class ahead of time.
We propose that each professor should be required to disclose the book list for a class one month before the first class date. For many students, nothing would change; they could still continue to visit State Street for all their classroom needs. But for a considerable number of other students, this plan would open many doors. Those students would have time to find cheaper books online, at book sales or at smaller bookstores.
We know this is not the solution to end complains about book prices, because in reality some books cannot be found at locations other than State Street bookstores. Students could be afforded more options, more freedom and maybe, just maybe, if enough students turned to buying books online, someday, the bookstores might reduce prices.
We encourage the university to establish rules ensuring professors release such lists in order to help students break the existing textbook oligopoly. With tuition increasing each year, students appreciate every edge in saving money.