The back-breaking weight of textbook costs

By Kelsey Dunkley (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: May 6, 2015

Instead of making students buy textbooks, offering resources online is better for the environment as well as students’ wallets.

Instead of making students buy textbooks, offering resources online is better for the environment as well as students’ wallets.

Being a university student in Canada comes with an array of unexpected costs that can make studying difficult without the financial aid of student loans. The costs of tuition, general living and transportation, student health-care plans, electronic devices, and other school supplies add up quickly throughout the semester. The last piece to consider for those in the pursuit of a successful post-secondary education is the exorbitant cost of textbooks across the country. Depending on the program, the Study in BC website forecasts that each student will spend a minimum of $800 annually on textbooks. As a full-time university student, I have noticed the cost of textbooks often substantially exceeds this $800 forecast.

As a Study Abroad student this winter semester, I was pleasantly surprised to find that students within the University of Sunderland, England are not required to purchase textbooks for each and every class they attend. Three of my own lecturers make resources available online and post links to helpful websites, as well as listing sources which are available in the campus library to aid in expanding students’ depth of knowledge on course material.

With this in mind, I propose limiting or cutting down the cost students spend each semester on textbooks alone. Most students have encountered the newest edition of a textbook being required for a course, despite minimal changes being made to the layout and having nearly identical information to the previous edition. If a professor references material that is not identical in layout between editions of texts, it drives students to spend more to ensure they are following along.

A possible suggestion is that students should share textbooks to cut down on costs. As much as sharing reading material would cut the cost of textbooks in half, trying to organize an allotted timeframe to complete reading is not a solid problem-solver. This technique limits thorough reading and re-reading of material as needed to fully grasp concepts and information. Sharing a textbook can work for some, but can limit others who wish to reassess learned material throughout the course and before exams.

If UFV supports students by carrying used textbooks within the library, making electronic versions of the texts available, and prompting professors to “go green” and post information and articles online, it will reduce the cost of post-secondary education. As a student at UFV myself, I look forward to seeing a transition from adding additional costs to figuring out alternate ways of making the pursuit of post-secondary education more accessible to prospective students in the future.