Letters from the Editor: Let the buyer beware

Kyrie Long Photo credit: Ellamarie Quimby

I started this semester with $10 in my bank account after paying for tuition, notebooks, and writing utensils.

I’m sure there are people in similar situations, but that was the worst bout of financial strife I’ve had in a few years and it was a stressful few weeks. Anyone who has ever gotten to the book store late can probably attest to this, but when you don’t have your textbook yet and all of your coursework (especially online) requires possessing said $300 textbook, life feels pretty overwhelming.

Money troubles are common on campus—in my office alone I have employees whose food budget basically covers the cost coffee and ramen and who are, for lack of a better term, desperately winging it. Her first semester here, my roommate rented every book she could and bought the rest for her six classes, reaching a total of nearly $2,000 on textbooks alone.

NBC published an article on this subject back in 2016, stating there has been a 73 percent increase in textbook costs since 2006. Reporter Herb Weisbaum cites his statistics from a student public interest research group. The Student PIRG noted that a lack of competition in the publishing industry is a contributing factor in rising textbook costs.

“More than 180 open-source textbooks are available right now. If every student were assigned just one in place of a traditional book,” Weisbaum wrote, “it would save students across the country more than $1billion on textbooks each year, based on the Student PIRG’s calculations.”

This is a tired story, but I’m a tired student and the sheer cost of attending college has weighed on me over the years.

Options that are thrown at me are as follows: just save for the books (as though I don’t spend each semester saving about $2,500 which goes straight towards half of my tuition), rent the books (at times barely cheaper than the alternative), go to the library (who really thinks all of our textbooks are available in bulk at the library?) or download copies for free online (shady at best, still illegal at worst).

Maybe I caught the terrible end of a “buyer beware” situation. I decided to go to college, effectively paid to be at this university, so I must accept the consequences and the cost of that decision. However, I would posit that, once enough of my metaphorical “buyers” are suffering from the same issues, it’s time to start looking at the suppliers with an equally critical eye.

To my fellow students, those books will weigh on you in more way than one. Keep your backpacks reasonably light and don’t give up—we’re all sick of the cost, but the only way to combat it is to stay persistent in seeking change.

Kyrie Long

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