Chances are that even this deep into winter term, students aren’t numb from the cold as much as from exorbitantly high textbook prices. After all, when was the last time you walked out of Ulrich’s or Shaman Drum pumped up about the great bargain you just scored on your gigantic psychology textbook that you know will probably only collect dust over the next four months? Probably never.
There’s not a whole lot us students can do about book prices at campus bookstores They’re just expensive. The popularity of this issue, however, made it the focus of a forum presented by the Michigan Student Assembly, an organization that actually can and should do something to deal with the problem. Directed at finding alternatives to help alleviate the burden of book expenditures, last week’s forum brought together students, administrators and bookstore owners in a discussion that was a formidable starting point. By the end of the forum, an astonishing conclusion was reached: Books are expensive. Possibly too expensive.
It’s good that all parties have come to agree on this point, but obviously more needs to be done. We hope MSA plans to follow up on the forum and perhaps institute reform toward alleviating the burden of overpriced books.
Many times students trade books amongst each other or find bargains for their books online, but this only works when students know what books they need ahead of time. It isn’t too much to ask teachers to make their book lists available to students ahead of time. Whether placed on C-tools, Wolverine Access or some other central website, having information about books ahead of time makes it possible for students to purchase books online and have them delivered in time for the new term.
The University has balked at requiring professors to provide book lists well in advance, arguing that most instructors have not finalized their book lists until just shortly before the term begins. However, teachers have always released their book lists to select stores weeks before the beginning of the term. After all, bookstores too need time to order books and have them in stock. Teachers may be driven by the wonderful intention of helping local businesses – or less noble aims – but in any case, they’re contributing to the creation of an effective monopoly that squeezes students. Professors should not support such exclusive agreements at the expense of broke college students.
Many students have independently wizened up and are already emailing professors before classes begin to get names of the required texts with enough time to order them online. While such spectacular individual initiative brings us to tears, when it comes down to it, the University shouldn’t make students jump through all these hoops to get a bargain on their books. MSA, as a body that claims to fight for student issues, must make sure that it doesn’t overlook this one while moving onto future forums about other issues.
Despite MSA’s history of empty pledges, we’re willing to give it a fair shot at proving itself able to deal with this situation. In the meantime, students themselves need to be proactive. Why continue to stand in lines reminiscent of the one for Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point only to pay twice as much for a book you could more conveniently and cheaply purchase on Amazon.com? Don’t do it. Trade books with friends, pester professors about book lists and buy your textbooks online. At the very least, professors might begin to voluntarily post book information ahead of time.