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Students Take Action to Combat Course Material Costs

Posted by Jason Smallheer on Jan 25, 2017 5:30:00 AM
Topics: Higher Ed, course materials, cost savings

With the costs of course materials on the rise, Higher Ed. students have joined hands and are using technology and an entrepreneurial spirit to keep expenses down and their odds of academic success intact.Students Take Action to Combat Course Material CostsTextbook sharing and a student-to-student sales model have given students another avenue to purchase their textbooks. Citing frustrations from high costs at the time of purchase and sticker shock at how little their books are worth at the end of the term, the website isharetextbooks.com was launched. The idea of sharing textbooks is not new. However, iShare Textbooks has made the process easier, more responsive than placing a note on a community bulletin board and offers a unique earning opportunity to the student. iShare Textbooks gives students three options:

  1. Buy new or used textbooks from the iShare Textbooks website
  2. Buy textbooks and at the end of the term and share them with peers receiving payment each time the book is shared
  3. Add a book they purchased from a third party to the sharing pool with complete pricing control.

Sharing the book opens the door to students earning most, if not all, of their original investment back as the owner(s) is compensated each time the book is shared. Funds from selling or sharing a book are added to a student’s iShare Textbooks account and can be withdrawn at any time. 

Faculty fights back

Textbook sharing or reselling to peers opens the doors to students using books faculty has not adopted for their course or using older editions. In an effort to combat student textbook sharing, Joseph Henry Vogel, an economics professor at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, filed to patent a method designed to halt textbook sharing services. Vogel is seeking access codes as a mandatory course material purchase, giving students access to “required” online materials, lectures and discussions. If a book is pirated, sold peer-to-peer or part of a book sharing program, the code would not be available resulting in students not receiving credit for mandatory portions of the course.

While the concept would ensure adopted texts are in use, the idea met with harsh criticism from professors citing the challenges low-income families would have with an increase in course material costs.

Student benefits

The average annual tuition increase for a private school is 3.7% and 2.9% at a public school. Forecasters expect tuition to increase as much as 5% per year based on trends from the last decade resulting in today's average $39,400 college education costing more than $94,000 in 2033. Sharing textbooks does more than lower comprehensive educational costs, for the student with a family, the money saved can put groceries on the table and pay the electric bill. Depending on how many students share a book, textbook sharing can save students anywhere from 50% if the book is only shared one time to 90% if it is shared more.

The grass isn’t always greener

On the surface, textbook sharing seems like a win for students fighting “the establishment.” However, there are challenges with using such programs. When textbooks are being shared, there is only one book being used by several students. As a result, during high-need times like exams or when term papers are due, having the needed course materials in-hand is difficult. 

Many students using one book result in its poor condition. Torn pages, excessive highlighting and water damage are just a few types of wear a student deals with when sharing books. Professional vendors have standards for textbooks in their inventory, offering students confidence the used or rented textbooks they have are complete and free from damage.

Swimming with the sharks

Knowing most students only use their textbooks a handful of times, or in some cases, never, Illinois State University students Kasey Gandham, Mike Shannon, Jessica Tenuta and Nick Currier came up with the idea of giving students the option to rent books for 24 hours for a small fee ($3-$5 per night.) The idea circumnavigated the textbook sharing idea and instead offered students the opportunity to pay for textbooks each time they used them. After appearing on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and receiving support from Mark Cuban, Chicago-based Packback is offering students a low-cost alternative that fits their financial needs and keeps current editions in their hands.

About Jason Smallheer

Jason Smallheer worked for MBS from 2016 to 2017. His diverse career includes freelance work, broadcast radio and ski resort marketing. He has a passion for sharing ideas, helping businesses grow and professional development. When not expressing himself through writing, he enjoys time with his family and being outside doing anything that can result in scuffed knees and dirty clothes.

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