BY SARA RADAE
With a new semester beginning, the dreaded process almost all college students have to go through is just around the corner: buying textbooks. For some college students, they have decided to skip this experience and just go without books. Why do some students do this, you ask? Because the prices for the books are outrageous.
Typically, one or more classes every semester requires a textbook to be purchased; sometimes certain classes require two or more books. Some of these books can reach $300, especially once you get into specialized major classes. Then there are some professors who write their own textbooks, so you have to buy it through your college’s bookstore rather than finding it slightly cheaper online.
According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, the College Board says that students at a four-year public college pay an annual average of $1,200 on books and supplies alone. By comparison, the group says that’s the equivalent of 39 percent of tuition and fees at a community college and 14 percent of tuition and fees at a four-year public university. Some private universities, such as McKendree, can cost up to $40,000 in total a year. I think a very small portion of that money can be put towards the textbooks my classes and professors require me to have.
If a professor really wants me to have a textbook for their class, maybe the university can spare some money in order to buy a class set of the books. We also do not need to keep updating the books and getting every new edition that comes out because, for the most part, most of the information stays the same. One may argue that the university paying for books could cause tuition to go up, but I think there is another way we could solve this problem without an increase in tuition.
Most college students (especially the ones who live on campus) have a meal plan. At McKendree, you get a set number of meals each week that do not roll over into the following weeks; if you don’t use them, you’ll lose them. For example, I have the meal plan where you get 15 meals per week. A meal at Ames Dining Hall costs $8 if you were to go in and pay with cash. I only use about 10 meals each week, so I am wasting 5 meals at a total of $40.
Carson Crow, a first-year student at McKendree, said “I have the 15 meals a week plan, but I am probably going to change it due to not using my meals up each week. But, if the university reimbursed me for the meals I didn’t use, I would keep my meal plan the same.” There are roughly 16 weeks in a semester at McKendree. So that means I am losing 80 meals for that semester, give or take a few. 80 meals at $8 means $640 are wasted a semester.
What if students were able to redeem the money from their unused meals? That $640 could be put towards paying for my books in the McKendree bookstore. Now, I do not think it is a good idea to just give $640 cash to college students because they will likely go shopping or otherwise waste that money. Instead, the leftover hundreds of dollars could be refunded as a gift card to the bookstore.
If students did this every semester with their unused meals, the money definitely would add up. “This semester alone, I know I paid around $500 for both of my daughter’s textbooks,” says father, Alex Radae. “I know they do not use all of their meals, and it would be great if the money we lost was put into the books I have to buy each semester.” If at the end of the eight or more semesters at McKendree there is leftover money not used on books, then the university could decide what to do with the money.
I realize that there might be problems with this, but I think it is a good idea to consider. Making textbooks completely free would be challenging. Finding money in the budget to set aside for some universities could be a hassle. But I think that giving students back the money they did not use in their meal plans would be a pretty simple change that could save struggling students thousands of dollars after their college career.