When students first arrive on campus, their student-loan debt isn't top of mind as far as financial concerns go: They have years to figure that out.
Instead, their most urgent concern is the hundreds of dollars they'll need to spend—as soon as possible—on textbooks and course materials.
In several focus groups led by New America's Education Policy program this fall, students and parents agreed: the cost of textbooks is the number one higher-education obstacle.
According to data from the College Board, books and supplies cost undergraduates $1,230 to $1,390 on average each year.
Some students told New America that the cost of their books rivaled the cost of their tuition.
One nursing student in a focus group lamented, "[Nursing] books were $1,600. My semester was $1,700... I mean that's—insane."
Textbook prices have risen more than 1,000% since 1977
Because students must purchase textbooks early in each term—preferably before their courses start—they sometimes have to come up with the money before their financial aid is disbursed.
And if students can't afford to start the class with book in hand, their grades suffer pretty quickly.
Several schools recognize this burden, and have made efforts to rein in brutal textbook costs.
At Tidewater Community, for instance, professors are working to adopt open educational resources (OER) for their business program.
OERs provide students with resources in the public domain and can be accessed for free online, without licensing or free-use issues. OERs can save students hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars (Ekowo/ Ezeugo, Newamerica.org, 1/11).
The world is going digital. College libraries should, too
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