Some colleges are relieving students of their worries by providing free textbooks

College students make a careful calculation at the beginning of each semester, which can take weeks to complete. Do I really have to buy textbooks for these classes? Can I avoid shopping at all?

This should come as no surprise considering the recent College Board Survey It is calculated that in the 2020-21 academic year, Undergrad spent an average of 2 1,240 on books and supplies. That figure was $ 220 higher for two-year college students.

But thousands of students are starting the semester without worrying about the cost of course materials. Some institutions are offering free textbooks to their entire graduate student body – and in some cases even reducing the burden for graduate students.

‘Overcoming Obstacles’

1,300 graduate students at Muskingham University in Ohio are guaranteed digital textbook access or hard copy books until classes begin this week, says Philip Lobe, vice president of finance and operations at the university.

They have seen firsthand how students who are trying to save money stop buying their textbooks, just wait anxiously to order later outdated editions or send their books later in the semester. About 60 percent of private university students have a “significant financial need,” he says.

“Worst of all, we tell students, ‘I can’t buy books and I can’t stay here, so I won’t buy my books.’ And it has a real impact on their academic performance, ”says Lobe. “It simply came to our notice then. The best way was to make sure they had the tools and resources they needed to succeed at Muskingham, and textbooks are a big part of class delivery. ”

Lobe says the University of Muskingham began working on its plan to cover textbook costs before the outbreak, which it put forward. Economic pressure On students.

“We see students who struggle to pay their bills, and we know who doesn’t buy books,” says Lobe. “We saw [free textbooks] A way to overcome the barriers to the success of some of our students or to improve our values ​​for students. ”

The university is part of Barnes & Noble’s First Day Complete, in which colleges bill course materials for students at no extra cost and ensure delivery before the first day of company classes. North Carolina A&T State University Signed into the program to distribute free textbooks to its undergraduate and graduate students for the next two years, made possible by a reserve peer fund for higher education.

Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina is also using the program to ensure that approximately 4,700 graduates will have their textbooks dropped this fall.

Pamala Turner, director of business and auxiliary services at Winston-Salem State University, points out this. Research The proportion of students with course materials on the first day of class has dropped to 29 percent in 2020, down 11 points in just three years. This causes the same problems for students and professors.

“We know we can count a lot because of the cowardly situation,” Turner says. “Some of them have to go without books for almost the entire quarter. Since books are on the first day, they are less frustrating, they don’t lag behind, and they need to be more exciting for professors because they are actually able to teach. ”

While graduate students from Winston-Salem State University are not included in the program, Turner says they will each receive vouchers of up to $ 500 for textbooks.

Proper placement and timely support

Why the cost of textbooks remains a pressure point for students year after year, even though it is spent on course materials Appears to be declining?

Paula is director of institutional transformation at Umana Temple University’s College, Community and Justice for Hope Center. The root cause, she says, is an educational model that focuses more on business than equity.

“Students don’t always meet the stereotype of 18 to 21 [years old]. We have parent students, returning students, real college students, ”says Umana. “The true economics of college has changed a lot in the last 70 years and we haven’t adjusted to all those changes. Students are in an equation that does not adapt to the situation. ”

Colleges are getting less government funding, she said, as enrollment declines in times of crisis. Today, she says, students are counting on the benefits of a degree compared to the cost of tuition, but for the burden of paying, which can include borrowing, doing multiple jobs and finding ways to meet basic needs.

“Textbooks are part of this business model. People have to pay the price because there is no other option, ”says Umana. “They have to decide whether to pay for the book, to pay the rent, or to pay for the book. This is a one-time cost, but there are many consequences of students sacrificing utilities, for example, and then endangering their home. ”

Even when epidemic help is available, a hope center Practice It found that 52 percent of students did not apply because they did not know how. Among those who received emergency assistance, 77 percent Among the four-year-old students and the 67-year-old two-year-old said they used the funds to cover class materials.

Umana says the aid program was not perfect as evidenced by the rate of applicants. There is a stigma attached to applying for help, she says, and many students who need help feel that there are some people who can use the help more urgently.

Colleges and universities need to adopt a student approach and evaluate how easily students can access help programs, Umana says.

“The model should talk about customer service, focus on basic needs, and basic needs to help students meet their educational needs,” she says. “Degree and retention are related to students’ ability to access on time, in an easy way, and have a secure network in place so that they can navigate systems that are already complex enough.”

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