Taekyung Lee, a biochemistry major from South Korea, used to buy his textbooks from the Diablo Valley College bookstore. But with prices for books skyrocketing, he has had to seek out other alternatives.
“I prefer to rent and buy my books from Amazon Prime,” Lee said, because “it’s much more affordable.”
Lee isn’t the only student turning to his Prime account to avoid paying the high cost of books at DVC. According to U.S. News & World Report, college students in America averaged close to $1,300 in spending on books and supplies in the last academic school year.
The cost for textbooks has jumped an eye-popping 1,000 percent since the 1970s, causing some two-thirds of students nationwide to stop buying or even renting required reading materials because they can’t afford to.
At DVC, the pressure to pay for expensive books is now leading more students like Lee to seek out Amazon or other outlets such as Chegg.com. In addition to lower purchase costs, students say sites like these offer easy and affordable book rental options.
Tasmin, a communications major, said her chemistry textbooks cost an average of $300. Not only that, when she enrolled in Arabic to complete a foreign language course requirement, she was hit with a $100 bill for a single book.
“I didn’t expect to have to pay that much for a foreign language class,” she said.
In response to the growing trend of students buying books online, DVC’s bookstore has implemented a twice-a-semester book buyback program to encourage students to resell their textbooks at a reduced price.
However, for some students, the money they get back from the bookstore offers little economic relief.
“It’s not worth doing it,” said Lee. “I have tried to sell back my book with a value of $200, but I only received $30.”
In addition to the buyback program, the college also offers the Extended Opportunity Program and Services, or EOPS, located in the DVC administration building.
The program, implemented more than half a century ago at all California community colleges, gives away free book vouchers to eligible students – those enrolling in 12 or more units. However, EOPS doesn’t offer book vouchers for international students.
Some departments, like Early Childhood Education, also offer textbooks for free to students enrolled in the major. Another option for students who don’t want to purchase books is to read them at the DVC library, though without the option of checking them out.
For foreign students especially, the high cost of books at community college is a shock they’re still getting used to.
Eli and Anne, who are both first-semester computer science majors from Russia, said book prices for students in the U.S. were dramatically higher than the costs in their own country.
“We paid much less in Russia for our textbooks,” said Eli. “The price (difference) is not comparable.”