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Washington State University
Washington State University Office of the Provost

Textbook costs a growing burden on students

As a whirlwind of a semester comes to a close and the ramp-up for spring begins, it’s a good time to consider how we can help students manage the financial challenges of textbook costs.

The cost of new print textbooks has risen more than 1,000 percent since 1977 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Add in the cost of other course materials, and some students can face bills in the thousands, and debt that takes years to pay off.

A few simple steps can enable faculty to help ease this burden on students. Turning in book requests early means that the Bookie can buy back students’ old books and re-sell them at a discounted price. It may not seem like much, but students appreciate the benefit.

“Some faculty might not be aware of the costs to students,” says Dylan Heyne, director of University Affairs for ASWSU. “We can only do so much, but one thing we can do is recycle used textbooks.”

Heyne has been working to improve the efficiency and efficacy of the textbook system, and his concerns are being heard.

“I believe that it is very important for the university community as a whole to try to reduce the incidental costs to students, including the cost of textbooks and classroom supplies,” says Richard Zack, chair of the Faculty Senate. “I am not sure that many faculty members realize that their timely decision will have a positive effect on the whether a student can re-sell a book to the bookstore.”

Instructors also can place a limited number of textbooks in the WSU Library Reserves. Open-source texts are becoming more and more prevalent in higher education, and online resources are becoming more viable each year.

Bringing awareness to the issue is the first step to finding solutions, which Zack says is a priority.

“It is a difficult problem, but anyone that has looked at the spiraling upward costs of textbooks and other educational materials and supplies realizes that something must be done to help control those costs,” Zack says. “I think that this is a problem where, if each of us does a little, cooperatively, we can make a big difference.”