Textbooks must be affordable, accessible

WSN Editorial Board

Yesterday was the last day NYU students could add or drop classes, and also marked the last day to return textbooks to the NYU Bookstore. Many students are now officially stuck with textbooks they are unlikely to need in three months. Not only are course materials overpriced, they are not fully utilized in some classrooms, and professors should be more mindful of the added expense.

According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, 65 percent of college students have, at some point, considered not buying a college textbook because of its cost. The survey noted that the price of college textbooks has climbed three times the rate of inflation over the past decade. According to the College Board, the average college student spends around $1,200 on textbooks and other school supplies each year. Too often professors will list a textbook as required course material, yet only assign a specific paragraph on a specific page during the entire semester. This is not fair to the student who spent $200 on it.

Many professors whose classes use textbooks require physical ones in class. They should be more lenient, allowing students to use online textbooks even if it means making an exception to their no technology policy. Electronic textbooks cost significantly less than actual textbooks, yet only 6 percent  of students use them. A shift in professor policy could increase this number.

NYU can help alleviate this expense on its students. Bobst Library carries copies of most textbooks, however the editions it carries are often outdated. A third edition French textbook is useless to a student whose professor teaches from the updated seventh edition. Additionally, borrowing textbooks from Bobst is not as easy as it could be. Because the library usually stocks few copies of each textbook, there are limitations on borrowing. If the copies are already in use, the student is out of luck, and even if a copy is available the student can only use the book for two hours.

The New York Times released an infographic  on Sept. 8 analyzing the schools with the most economic diversity. While it is a positive that NYU made the list, economic diversity does not equate to a lower bottom line for tuition. For NYU students, the article is a reminder of a familiar financial reality, to which textbooks are an added burden. NYU’s professors should consider the cost to students when devising a curriculum, while the university should re-examine Bobst resources.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 16 print issue. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected].