Editorial | Efforts to limit the financial burden of textbooks
Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 08:09
Tuition at Tufts this academic year comes out to $45,590. This cost is often defrayed by financial aid, but after students and their families manage to sort through their finances, they are then faced with the cost of textbooks.
Many of us grew up reading hardcover books from bookstores, no more than $30 apiece at most, or from public libraries. But this is not how the collegiate textbook market works. Textbooks are printed and sold at a price that has seemingly very little to do with the cost of production. New editions of books are printed as soon as the secondary market gets sufficiently populated, regardless of how many changes need to be made. Students who attempt to go through secondary markets are often unpleasantly surprised to find that they need an access code for an online component of the book, which costs nearly as much as or more than the book itself. This hurts first-year students especially, pressured by the short time in between registration and the start of classes.
Both professors and the Tufts administration should be willing to use their positions to lend a helping hand to students. First, professors could be more accommodating in the first few weeks of class as Amazon orders trickle in through an overbooked Mail Services. Many professors, especially in the arts and humanities, often assign individual course packets instead of forcing students to buy expensive books. While this is cheaper, doing this also eliminates any resale value and forces students to venture to the Boston Avenue Gnomon Copy, which is open only during inconvenient weekday hours. Professors who do this, or who assign books out of which only a few chapters are used, would better assist their students by uploading as much as is legally possible to Trunk.
Many professors put a single copy of the textbook on reserve in Tisch Library for students who truly cannot afford to buy the textbook or are still waiting on their book to arrive. However, that single copy is generally insufficient for the needs of the student body, especially for large lecture classes during the first few weeks of the semester and during reading period and finals.
For this as well, there are potential solutions. If the administration facilitated either a reserve system through Tisch, where students could donate old editions of books, or a proper textbook resale website for Tufts (as opposed to the inefficient TuftsLife), there would finally be a proper secondary market for textbooks.
The Tufts Bookstore still has its uses, especially for students who don’t want to go through the hassle of buying books online. But if students want to find other alternatives, professors should be accommodating by publicly posting syllabi and required textbooks online well before the start of classes. Students who have already paid tens of thousands of dollars to enroll in classes should not be burdened with one final monetary barrier.