Paycheck Chronicles

Saving Money On College Textbooks Not As Easy As It Used To Be

If you're like most college students - or parents of college students - you know that textbooks are a major portion of the cost of a college education

In the past lots of college students managed to save a large portion of that cost by using "alternative means" when it came to buying those expensive textbooks, now it looks like the book companies have found a way to get back the money they were losing when students used "alternative methods" of textbook purchasing. 

Buying Used Textbooks To Save Money

Not so long ago many students saved money by purchasing used books from the college bookstore, finding them listed for sale on bulletin boards around campus, or getting them online. Many college bookstores also allow you to sell back your used books for about half of the purchase price if they are in good condition.

Recently Amazon and other websites have started renting textbooks for a fraction of the cost of a new book. A new textbook for Biology 101 at a state college could run you $110 at the college bookstore, while renting the exact same book on Amazon is $28. Renting vs. purchasing sounds like a no-brainer right? 

My daughter did this and we thought we were getting a great deal. We did until we found out about the "access code".

The Dreaded Access Code

Many courses now require an online access code, an online workbook, or a special online code that you need before you can even submit your homework, These codes can only be used once and last for around four months. That means if you take the course again, you have to buy another access code. Some enterprising courses even require you to spend $75 for an electronic remote control device that you use to click the proper answers when a professor gives a presentation/test.

Of course, you can't just buy the access code by itself, usually it comes as part of a package deal where you have to buy the book, the workbook, and the access code. So the original $110 Biology 101 textbook ended up costing us $165, and that doesn't count the $28 that we paid to rent the book on Amazon. Lovely, get out the credit card dad!

How To Avoid The Extra Cost

What can you do as a smart consumer?  Talk to your professor. Some professors are real good about letting students use non-standard textbooks, some schools also seem to be better about it than others.

Many colleges also have more than one instance of a class, especially beginning or general education courses, if one professor requires the access code another class with a different professor may not.

If you're lucky enough to be getting the Post-9/11 GI Bill, remember that you get up to $1,000 each year for books and other supplies, use it wisely.

I chose to use this as a teaching lesson for my college student, no matter how smart and frugal you try to be there are always times when you will have to pay full price, that doesn't mean you shouldn't always try to save a few bucks. 

Remember to check out our partner site Fastweb.com for tons of information on scholarships and other ways to pay for college.

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