Editorial: Survey says–Students can’t afford books


A recent survey published by the Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) is the winner of The Journal’s “Most obvious fact,” award. CHE found that 7 in 10 college students skipped buying books at least once because they couldn’t afford them.
Students won’t be shocked to read this. Despite the simple understanding that books are central to an education, students have learned over the years that the cost outweighs the benefits of book-buying.
The Journal would like to clarify our position: It is our firmest belief that every student in college should have access to all the materials relevant to their education. However, school policies across the country are in direct conflict with this belief.
Let’s start with the teachers. At Webster University, as well as many institutions, educators are required by school policy to assign at least one book per class. Quick, calculate how many classes assigned you a book that was never utilized during the semester?
University-run bookstores are the guiltiest party in this scam. Insane markups and limited availability don’t encourage students to flock to the book store when classes start. Soon, we are trading with our colleagues that already took the classes, perusing internet sites for cheap book prices and calculating the shipping time against our first exams.
And, of course, the almighty dollar plays a big role. Let’s not forget that many schools, like Webster, lack programs that allow low-income students to purchase books. For Webster students whose financial aid award covers their entire tuition, books can be purchased in advance and the cost will be subtracted from your refund.
But if you’re anything like the countless students at Webster whose award covers only a portion of tuition, you’re waiting on private loans to make up the difference, and books sit on the shelves, collecting dust and waiting for you to cash the refund.
The Journal can’t help but shake its head at this trend. As Webster continues to find ways to increase revenue (how are those $100 a-piece parking permits treating you?) they continually ignore the real needs of students.
While the university foots the bill for expansion on Garden Avenue, construction of new facilities, contracting expensive design firms for the master plan and purchasing land at Eden Seminary, students continue to struggle for simple supplies like books.
How many students could have received free books for the $5.2 million cost of Eden Seminary? What good is a better school with fancy facilities if the students can’t afford the most basic provisions?
Student loan debt represents the largest debt in America. Young people everywhere are more discouraged about higher education because of the cost. And yet, the benefits compel those with the drive and the resources. We should be awarding, not punishing, those that want to learn. Give us cheap books, and we will give you expensive minds.

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