There’s nothing quite as sobering as a bookstore line after a long, hazy Welcome Week. With prices through the roof and vendors disorganized, students typically begin classes having wasted excessive amounts of time and money in the book-buying process. Students need a break. With tuition and housing costs rising, inflated textbook prices are burdensome. University professors, as well as the administration, should work to create a system that makes textbook shopping easier and more affordable.
Already, competitive and affordable alternatives to traditional bookstores are surfacing, mainly over the Internet. But the University has done little to promote these options, and most students hear about the various online book trading and retail sites through word of mouth. The University, or even the Michigan Student Assembly, could create one official used textbook site — and then publicize it heavily, giving students an easily accessible money-saving option.
However, an online textbook exchange is only useful if students know what books they are looking for. Unfortunately, most students don’t find out what books they need until they receive syllabi on the first day of class. Fundamentally, students need more time and information. Instructors should finalize their reading lists and post them on course websites as soon as possible, preferably before registration begins. Students should have access to a textbook list, which could include price and availability information, upon registering for a course. This is especially important — and feasible — in introductory classes, which often have expensive textbooks and little variation from semester to semester. With this information, students have the ability to search for better book prices and — if necessary — more affordable classes.
Professors could also ease the burden on students by limiting the use of coursepacks. The University’s “C-Tools” service, which allows professors to post links and articles on a password-protected website, is cheaper, more flexible and more efficient than a printed coursepack. The University should encourage faculty to use C-Tools and offer classes teaching older, technophobic instructors how to use it effectively.
Also, it would be helpful if instructors were more sensitive to students’ financial concerns when updating textbooks. Often, professors require the newest versions of textbooks, even though older versions differ only slightly. Because old textbooks can be purchased at a much cheaper price, professors should refrain from requiring the newest version of a textbook unless it offers a significant improvement.
Instead of forcing thousands of students into a disagreeable textbook market, the University should use its resources to make textbook buying a wallet-friendly experience. By using modern technology and giving students the information needed to make money-saving decisions, the University could help students offset the rising costs of college attendance.