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Students look for ways around high book prices

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Georgia Regents University junior Ashley Pacheco racked up about $800 at the campus bookstore Monday.

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Georgia Regents University student Ashley Pacheco shops for books at the GRU bookstore on the GRU Summerville campus. Pacheco racked up about $800 at the campus bookstore Monday.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Georgia Regents University student Ashley Pacheco shops for books at the GRU bookstore on the GRU Summerville campus. Pacheco racked up about $800 at the campus bookstore Monday.

With the bulk of her course load in history and anthropology this semester, Pacheco is required to purchase 18 books; The most expensive, a textbook for her physical anthropology class, registered at $179.

The hefty charge will be paid through Pacheco’s student loans and other financial aid, she said.

“She’s taking out a loan, on top of a loan, and then she’s selling her kidneys,” said her friend, Johnny Hampton, who accompanied Pacheco on her trip to the JagStore at GRU’s Summerville campus.

Despite the extra expense, Pacheco leaned toward buying new books instead of renting or purchasing used.

“Especially with my history books, I usually keep them anyway, so it really is an investment,” she said. “I know there’s places like Chegg and other places online where you can get them, but I’d rather just get them here because it’s more convenient.”

Hampton, who had bought three books last week, said his cost totaled about $300, including a $200 French book. The English major and veteran is able to use an annual $1,000 book stipend, split into $500 each semester, that’s attached to the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“A lot of times I do spend about $800 per semester, so it helps, but it doesn’t fully cover,” Hampton said. “This semester, I got kind of lucky.”

According to a 2014 survey released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s Education Fund, college textbook costs have increased by 82 percent in the last decade and have caused 65 percent of student consumers to decide against buying a textbook.

On average, college students will spend about $1,200 on books and supplies this year, according to the College Board. Still, the College Board reported that spending growth is declining as more students are turning toward used-book markets, book-rental programs and digital textbooks to fight back against high prices set by publishers.

Lanny Williams, an employee at the JagStore, said most students choose to buy used or rent, a service the store started offering last fall that can cut book prices in half.

“Books are high,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have no control of that. We’re really trying to get more books used so that students have the option to rent because that seems to be the trend.”

GRU freshman Harleigh Sohler was among a crowd of students who stopped by the bookstore on the first day of class Monday in favor of alternate cost-saving methods.

She said that while most of her $400 spent on books was through the store, she is also trying out Amazon’s textbook rental program this semester.

“Some books they have here, you can’t rent or you can’t buy used,” she said. “You only buy new, and that’s when everybody gets on Chegg and Amazon because the price difference is so drastic.”

For junior Brittany Tinker, buying used is the way to go. Out of six books she paid about $300 for Monday, the criminal justice major only bought one new – and that’s because the material for her online math class wasn’t offered any other way.

“Textbooks are expensive, but that’s expected,” she said. “I just wish sometimes we had more options for rent. They do have some choices in here for rent. Just none of them benefits me.”

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raul 08/18/14 - 07:45 pm
ridiculous for the cost of

ridiculous for the cost of books. Hint; buy the cheapest way you can for the course material. Chances are you will never reopen those books after you finish the course, even for your major.

Proud2Serve 08/19/14 - 12:42 am

Use I was able to find almost EVERY book I needed on Amazon. Often I would pay around $11-45 per book compared to $150 in the bookstore.

Textbooks are a scam. Overpriced. The Universities are in bed with the publishers. You can tell where your Professor's priorities are if they give you the course material and the syllabus early so you can order and receive books before class, as opposed to the ones that will not even tell you until the day of class and have an assignment due immediately the next day forcing you to use the School book store.

Connor Threlkeld
Connor Threlkeld 08/19/14 - 01:23 am
I saved a couple hundred

I saved a couple hundred dollars a semester using, but that was back in 2002-2005 (whoa). It was exceedingly rare that using the previous edition would be a problem in my classes, so I usually paid about 10 percent of the sticker price for my books. There may be better options now (Chegg, rental, etc.).

nocnoc 08/19/14 - 06:44 am
When I was at Augusta College

When I was at Augusta College (1974) there was a mini war going on between the AC book Store and a off campus used book store. It got pretty dirty there for a while, with some really restrictive / crazy rules by the AC book store. At one point students suspected the AC bulletin boards were patrolled and offers to buy and sell used books removed.

So I did not wait for the book to get to the AC book Store or the 3rd party store. I stood outside the classroom door the week of exams with a little sign and few of y'all might remember me.

Made an "A" I'll buy your book.

So I ended up purchasing directly from the better students that highlighted, circled and wrote little notes in the white space & columns.

nocnoc 08/19/14 - 06:45 am
BTW: My pet peeve

Instructors that write books and demand you purchase it to attend the class

deestafford 08/19/14 - 07:53 am
I read yesterday that the..

I read yesterday that the president of Perdue University, Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana and head of OMB under Bush, worked out a deal with Amazon to provide text books to students, delivered on campus, for a significant reduction in price.

Additionally, he froze tuition. Something not done in 36 years. Reduce cost of meals by 10%. Sold some university automobiles, didn't buy new office furniture and other cost cutting measures.

If the leaders at GRU are serious, which is a leap of faith, about saving students money, they could check and see what Daniels has done. Of course, I imagine the response would be, "We can't change that. That's the way we've always done it.''

I've even heard of some textbooks put out as ebooks. Of course, if a professor spends hundreds, if not thousands, hours developing a textbook he should be adequately compensated for this efforts.

seenitB4 08/19/14 - 09:03 am
Too dang expensive!!

What does a typical Professor make each year?

This is a thriving business & of course, they want to keep it like that.

bdouglas 08/19/14 - 10:06 am
Can't help but think

Can't help but think textbooks are a racket influenced (or demanded) by the campus bookstores. Every semester I was in college there was a "new edition" of the textbooks I needed for any given class. Of course the bookstore only stocked the latest edition and not used versions of the perfectly acceptable previous edition simply because a few grammatical or spelling errors were corrected. And as nocnoc mentioned, any professor who had a book of their own published always made it required reading in their class so as to supplement their income. I often waited until the first week of class or even later into the semester to purchase my books because I usually found that some of them weren't even required like the syllabus or bookstore told us they were.

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