Opinion: Additional textbook costs for students are a major financial burden

Access codes lack accessibility for many ASU students

College tuition prices are at an all-time high, resulting in financial struggle for students and families across the nation. 

Despite the hefty price tag, tuition typically does not include the cost of other necessary supplies, such as textbooks. According to a study done by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, textbooks and other supplies can cost students up to an additional $1,200 per year

Someburros, a chain Mexican restaurant expected to open a Tempe location soon, recently announced it will help student workers pay for textbooks. However, it shouldn't have to get to that point.

One major culprit of rising textbook costs is access codes, a relatively new necessity for college courses. They often include online reading materials, homework and other assignments that students must complete in order to do well in their courses. 

Despite their convenience, the codes are pricey. In a report from the Student Public Interest Research Groups, the average price of an online access code is $100. A Spanish textbook that ASU requires costs $175 with no option of buying or renting a used version.

High textbook prices have been a common complaint among college students for decades, but access codes and online supplements for books are a much newer inconvenience and should not cause excessive amounts of financial stress for students. 

Textbook prices have been on the rise for a while. According to NBC News' 2015 analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, since 1977, the price of college textbooks has risen 1,041 percent. 

Nicole Allen, a spokeswoman for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, said in the NBC News article that "they've been able to keep raising prices because students are 'captive consumers.' They have to buy whatever books they're assigned." 

Not every class requires a textbook while some require multiple. Some ASU professors have opted to utilize a class website for all of the course material. Although this option is great for some courses, it isn't viable for them all.

According to the aforementioned U.S. Public Interest Research Group study, 65 percent of students surveyed chose not to buy their course's textbook because it cost too much. Meanwhile, 94 percent of those students worried that not having the textbook would negatively impact their grades.

Students should not have to sacrifice academic success for financial stability.

Some professors require students to purchase textbooks they wrote themselves, such as ASU clinical associate professor Sussanah Sandrin.

"In an online class, it is helpful for the lectures and textbook to line up exactly since I don't have the advantage of seeing my students to explain which parts of the text they can skip or that they need to read closely," Sandrin said.  

There is also speculation among college campuses that professors require their own textbooks so they can make extra money.

"I am very aware of student perceptions and so I try to explain to my students why we use the book that we do, and I ask students (via survey) about the option of dropping the textbook," Sandrin said.

Despite the rumors and speculation about professors pocketing money from students, there is actually a process that faculty members must go through in order to get approval to use their own textbooks "to demonstrate that the use of our textbook is in the best interest of our students," according to Sandrin.

In regard to financial aid for textbooks, ASU provides choices for students. Professors have the option to list textbooks as recommended or required. 

The prices of textbooks can be absurd, but ASU students should take comfort in knowing that most professors are searching for the most affordable options, and there is financial aid available. 

Still, as an institution, ASU should work harder to make textbooks more accessible for students, especially considering the already high price of tuition and fees. No student should have their grades suffer because the textbook is too expensive.

Reach the columnist at adunn11@asu.edu or follow @adrienne_dunn on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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