Overpriced and underused text books

Kaitlin Sansenbach

When entering Sacramento State’s bookstore there are workers waiting to greet you with smiling faces and to help students find their books for classes. It has the deceiving facade of a   stress-free environment.

There is a Java City coffee stand, fashionable Sac State gear, relaxing furniture and multiple resources to make any student’s experience at college easier. Then students see the downside – the price of everything.

More importantly, the price of the inevitable textbook purchase.

According to the Sac State website, a student will spend an average of $1,300 on books each year. This is outrageous and has led students to find alternatives.

More students are finding themselves not purchasing books and just accepting the fact that they probably won’t do the best in the class while praying the teacher will put a textbook in the library reserves.

People go to school to become successful, educated and well-rounded. Sac State’s mission statement says, “We are committed to providing an excellent education to all eligible applicants who aspire to expand their knowledge and prepare themselves for meaningful lives, careers, and service to their community.”

Sure, that’s what Sac State has to offer, but the school fails to mention there are two outcomes in achieving this mission. Students are going to go broke paying for textbooks or not receive the full learning potential classes have to offer because students do not have the financial means to do so.

Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration senior Baylor Cody found himself studying out of a reserved textbook in the library Tuesday morning.

“I don’t want to spend the money on a book that costs more than $100 and I will only look at it maybe once a month during the semester,” Cody said. “It doesn’t make sense, especially when most of the times teachers don’t even reference or test on the book.”

Cody brings up an interesting point. For some professors, they require certain textbooks but do not use them throughout the semester. Or my personal favorite, upload a syllabus online for their students before the semester starts, give required texts and on the first day of school say, “Oh nevermind, don’t buy it.”

This wouldn’t be as frustrating if we could actually return unwanted books for the price we paid for them. But naturally, that’s just not the case.

The first Wednesday of the semester I found myself in a four hour class, sifting through the syllabus. While my teacher filters through the important things to cover, he stops at the “required textbook” portion.

“Who all has purchased the text already?”

A few hands quickly rise, proud to establish that they are the prepared, over-achieving students.

“And how much did you spend?”

“165 dollars at the bookstore, but you can get it as low as 150 online,” said one student.

Oh boy, a $15 difference…joy.

The teacher stands there with a puzzled look, his facial expression almost giving away his thought process of, “Wow, that was more than I thought.”

“Alright class, I won’t make it a required text anymore.”

While sighs of relief are heard from most of the students mouths, angered and displeased faces were seen on those once proud faces throughout the room.

Senior journalism major, Deni Goto, was one of the students who bought the book in advance. She found herself a little irritated, and rightfully so.

“I took the time to order the book and then he changed his mind about using it. Professors should really plan ahead so they know whether they’ll really need the textbooks or not,” Goto said. “That way we don’t have to waste our money.”

Sure, a few of the students in class can return the books at the bookstore. But, the students who outsourced and bought the books from people on Amazon or Chegg are essentially screwed.

Online bookstores are supposed to make buying and renting books more cost efficient and easier for students. However, when teachers are flighty in their textbook selection it makes buying books a headache.

It gets even worse when professors require books and then never use them. There are countless times books are returned to bookstores that look completely untouched, but the student only receives 5 percent back of what they originally paid.

Former Sac State bookstore employee and business major Lupe Arroyo recalls the “buyback” week at the bookstore.

“There were so many books where the bindings were still cracking when I opened them,” Arroyo said. “It was like no one ever used them throughout the semester. Sometimes books are just a waste of money.”

However, there are a few professors who are godsends and give their students a break when it comes to textbooks.

Economics Professor Ta-Chen Wang thinks textbooks have been a major issue in college education in recent years. Thankfully, for his students, he does not require any textbooks for his class on U.S. Economic History.

“The main reason is there simply is no single textbook that appropriately covers all the topics with the right depth,” Wang said. “The interdisciplinary nature of this class makes it difficult for a textbook to cover both economics and history well.”

In order to avoid the situation Arroyo has experienced in the bookstore, Wang promotes a teaching style that includes using the Sac State’s library resources: journal articles, book chapters, historical documents and lecture notes.

Wow, now there’s a beautiful concept – professors actually teaching the material in class and using the resources that our tuition dollars are paying for.

Understandably, it would be the student’s responsibility to actually show up and receive the resources provided. As students, it is our job to learn. And as professors, it is their job to teach us.

Remarkably, all this is possible without the worry of stressful debt situations for students, while making the learning process more thought-provoking and beneficial for everyone involved.