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Affordable Options to Finance Your College Textbooks

Within a few weeks, school will be back in session, leading college students across America scrambling for the best deals on overpriced textbooks. But making the grade comes at a cost, especially in recent years, where the cost of one college textbook is equivalent to two adult tickets to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. With tuition rates already soaring to astronomical heights, students are desperate for a solution. However, online retailers, such as Chegg, offer school books at a fraction of the price, allowing students to make the grade for half the cost.

According to non-profit Student Public Interest Research Groups (Student PIRGs) report, Covering the Cost, from 2006 to now the cost of college textbooks has increased by 73 percent. Although there are variations from institution to institution, College Board suggests students set aside $1298 a year for textbooks and miscellaneous supplies. Some students have even had to dip into their financial aid in order to purchase these overpriced paperweights.

About 30 percent of students use financial aid to buy their textbooks, while other students simply ignore their professors’ supplies requirements. “I’ve had to decide whether to get the book or just skip it because it cost too much,” Student PIRGs member Max Alphonse admitted in an interview with NBC News.

The high college textbook and supplies fees result mainly from the fact that only five major publishers monopolize 80 percent of the market, and the consumers (the students) are usually mandated to purchase the supplies. With these three solutions, you don’t have worry about being at the mercy of this monopoly.


Online retailers like Chegg provide students with an effective alternative that won’t put a major dent in their wallets. With millions of books and dealers at the website’s disposal, Chegg offers textbooks at great discounts, some even 90 percent off the original price. The site allows students to rent or purchase textbooks with no additional shipping costs on orders over $85. Return policies include a “21-day risk free” rule, and students who are renting textbooks are allowed to highlight inside the textbooks without depreciating the value of the book or penalty. Students may also purchase or extend rentals. The site was rated 6th out of 9 on TopTenReviews’ Best Textbook Rentals Online of 2016.

Other Online Textbook Rental Sites

Other textbook rental sites, such as eCampusAmazon, and Kindle also offer incredible savings on college supplies. They even include digital eBook rental and purchasing options. Additionally, price comparison sites such as Alibris Textbooks and RentScouter provide students with the cheapest options, sorting textbook rental sites by their prices, rental periods, and policies.

Tidewater’s Z-Degree Program

Acting as a visionary and advocate against forcing students to purchase textbooks is Tidewater Community College, located in Norfolk, Virginia. The institution’s associate’s degree program offers a Z-Degree program. This is a textbook-free program, in which the two-year degree program’s curriculum is based entirely upon “openly-licensed, high-quality electronic textbooks.” In other words, students enrolled in the program spend hardly, if any, money on textbooks.

While the Z-Degree program is only offered at TCC, it has opened the conversation of overpriced school supplies.  

Featured Image by John Liu on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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