In the news

Vallejo Times-Herald
Sarah Rohrs

For a college student on a budget, forking over $200 for one textbook can be a major burden.


To get books they need, some students borrow from their parents, use financial aid or even try to get by without them for a course, or two.


The high cost of textbooks is a problem, which adds to debt and other financial loads students must carry, according to the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG).


As Napa Valley College takes note of the remodeling of its campus bookstore, vendor Barnes & Noble will present a $15,000 donation to be used for scholarships and other student support, including help in buying textbooks.


The funds will go to into the college's annual scholarship program which awards 200 scholarships per year, Napa College spokeswoman Lissa Gibbs said.


Undoubtedly, students getting those scholarships will use a portion to cover some of the high costs of textbooks, Gibbs said.


Napa College student Alex Shantz said expensive textbooks cut into the income students need to cover a wide range of expenses, including rent, food, transportation and clothes.


"At a community college level, there's generally students who are signed up in classes and waiting for financial aid checks to come in to purchase a book," Shantz said.


Former Napa College student Jena Goodman of Vallejo said student higher education leaders from across California are working to find ways to lighten the financial load of buying textbooks.



"For me, I've spent up to $150 for a textbook and as much as $500 to $600 per semester on books," said Goodman.


The 28-year-old year now attends University of California at Davis and is the Green Party candidate for lieutenant governor. She has pledged to bring higher education issues to the forefront.


Napa College President Ron Kraft said there's been a huge leap in students not buying textbooks due to the high costs. He said strides have been made in textbook rentals, which offer options of securing material they need for classes without the cost of buying a new book.


Goodman said publishing corporations are making it worse by "bundling" textbooks with CD-ROMS, which are often not needed. They are also contracting with campus bookstores and gaining a monopoly on the textbook market, she said.


"High textbook prices can be crippling when factoring in rising student tuition and fees, cost of housing, food, transportation, and the fact that California has the highest poverty rate in the nation," Goodman said.


She proposes student textbook exchange programs, and encourages Associated Student gorups to take the reigns and initiate these programs themselves. Students are already organizing such exchange programs through Facebook and other online social media.


Physical book exchanges have also been established on campuses or other sites, Goodman said, referring to such a system in place at Diablo Valley College.


Meanwhile, as costs of textbooks continue to soar, a CALPIRG study at UC Davis showed that 65 percent of student have opted out of buying a college textbook due to high prices. Further, nearly half say textbook costs often dictate whether students take a course of not.


Over the past decade textbook prices have increased by 82 percent, or at three times the rate of inflation, according to CALPIRG.


The organization recommends federal government, states and individual campuses to support and invest in alternatives, including open textbooks. These are books written by faculty members but free online, free to download and affordable in print.

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