Textbooks are number two challenge for students

Michael Shufro, Staff Writer

Textbook costs ranked as the number two challenge keeping SRJC students from staying in college last year, an SRJC student survey stated, knocking the challenge of job pressures from second in 2007 to fourth in 2010. Financial problems ranked number one.

“All consumer goods experience price increases, and unfortunately textbooks are no exception,” said Anthony Martinez, assistant director of the SRJC Bookstore. The chief factor that drives up textbook costs comes from the publishers who must pay author royalties and production costs. Used books cut out the publishers, so they put out new editions or increase prices to make up revenue.

“Increased prices are an attempt by the publishers to combat the used book market,” Martinez said. “Used books are a great alternative for students, but in this way they do have an effect on the prices of new books.”

KC Greaney, the SRJC director of institutional research, conducts a student survey every three years. When first conducted in 2001, the survey showed that less than a quarter of students were unemployed. Then in 2004 it climbed to 27 percent and in 2007 went down to 26 percent. Last year student unemployment reached an all-time high of 35 percent.

“Not working means no money for things like books,” Greaney said. “In 2007, the Doyle Scholarship was in full swing” she added, noting only a small fraction is available from what was once offered.

“I’ve dropped a lot of classes because of the cost of textbooks,” said second year SRJC student Julius Jones. “It makes you not want to take the usual amount of classes because of the cost.”

Neil Jackson, an advertising major at SRJC, said he rarely even goes to the bookstore. “I buy most of my books online because it’s so much cheaper,” Jackson said.

But gloom and doom don’t completely overshadow the financial future of textbook costs. Martinez mentioned that the SRJC bookstore started a textbook rental program in the fall of 2010. “It was enormously popular right out of the gate,” Martinez said. “Not all titles are available for rental, but last semester over 100 of the most widely-used titles were available for rental, with different ones being added each semester.”

Martinez said the rental fee for a book can be anywhere from 40-60 percent of the price for a new copy of the book. Simply open a rental account with the SRJC bookstore, pay the rental fee and return it on or before the Friday of finals week.

“The program has been a great success and enthusiastically received by the students,” Martinez said. “It is a great alternative for those seeking to lower the costs of their textbooks, and we are very proud to offer it.”