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Editorial: Free our financial aid for textbooks

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It’s unquestionable that GRCC has its students’ financial well being high on its list of priorities. A cost comparison shows our school is the best value for the classes offered, and in an area filled with other higher learning institutions, the wealth of transfer agreements with nearby universities makes GRCC a smart move for nearly everyone.

But despite GRCC’s repertoire of cost-saving measures, administrators haven’t taken steps to help students save money on books. When tuition for many students is hardly over $100 per credit, textbooks can easily become a third of the cost of a semester of school, especially if a student takes math and science courses, the books for which can cost over $200.

For example, “Elementary Geometry for College Students” is being used by at least one section of Math 105 at GRCC. Bought new at the Follet bookstore, even online, it costs $241, or you can rent if for the semester for $178. At Valorebooks.com you can buy the same book for $138, shipping included, at BetterWordBooks.com for about $82 dollars with free shipping, and BetterPlanetBooks.com offers the book for a measly $19.

Not taking Math 105? “A Composition of Everyday Life” is the book used by most English 102 sections, and at the Follet bookstore it costs $154 to purchase or $99 to rent. At Valorebooks.com the same book costs $62 dollars to purchase, at BetterPlanetBooks.com it was $17, and there were even lower prices listed at smaller sites.

These aren’t grocery-store savings of a dollar here or there, the difference is hundreds of dollars. Large fractions of students’ book budget can be preserved by shopping online. It’s the kind of disparity that can keep a struggling student from returning for another semester. The cost of a book could keep someone from taking that college level math course, or discourage them from that second English class. The cost of books is an accessibility issue.

The beauty of this problem is that it doesn’t take much to solve it. Most of students excess financial aid money is held for a while after tuition is charged to make sure the student attends the classes they’re enrolled in, but as little as $50 left to a student at the beginning of the semester could enable them to buy books significantly cheaper and save hundreds, and I doubt anyone is going to fill out the paperwork to scam financial aid for $50.

Another option would be to place kiosks in the Student Life office with equipment similar to what is attached to the parking ramp and vending machines on campus, that would let students shop online with their Raider Card, making the $200 transfer that is allowed at the beginning of the semester available for shopping for textbooks online. This would put financial aid dollars back in students’ hands to use to cover other expenses like food, parking or even child care, and prevent them from having to take out excessive loans.

GRCC works hard for its students, to make sure our money is well spent, so why are they allowing students to be held financially hostage by the campus bookstore when less expensive textbooks are so easily available online?