Students Save by Renting Textbooks

San Diego students have the option of renting textbooks at local universities

By Sarah Grieco
|  Monday, Aug 15, 2011  |  Updated 2:58 PM PDT
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Students Save by Renting Textbooks

Students now have the option of renting their textbooks to save money.

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Local college students will face a mountain of fees as they head back to class in the following weeks.

San Diego State University students will be adding some extra zeros to their university checks with the increased tuition of 12 percent, while students at UC San Diego acquired a nearly 10 percent fee hike for this semester.

The constant increase of university costs has led some schools to rent its course books—alleviating the overall costs of higher education. UCSD rents textbooks by duration, ranging from one to four months, while SDSU, which started renting last year, has a flat semester fee for its rentals.

But does renting course material really save students a significant amount of money?

Students who rent textbooks can save up to 50 percent of the cost of textbooks. While students save money up front, they cannot sell the book back or be partially reimbursed for the cost. Students cannot profit on the books they return at the end of the semester and rentals are still taxed. It varies by book whether or not students can save more by renting or selling it back.

SDSU lists a management book’s full price as $139, with the rental costing 43 percent less at $79 for the semester. At UCSD, the price for a chemistry book is nearly $233, with the initial rental cost of $47 for 30 days and $75 for 125 days.

For those who find university bookstores to be overpriced, outside options for deal-hungry students are increasing. Campus stores have to compete with sellers such as eBay’s company Half.com and Amazon’s student buyback program. These companies started renting course material recently, giving students another place to find a deal.

On competing sites, the same management book SDSU listed costs only $101 to buy and $57 to rent—a 28 percent savings. The difference is significant enough for those feeling the pressure of rough economic times. Students can sell the same book back to Amazon for about $71, only a few dollars less than it costs to rent at SDSU.

But renting might give options to those who felt as though textbooks were unaffordable.

Last year the SDSU Bookstore received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to add titles to its rental program. SDSU then studied rental benefits on student learning. The findings revealed that the rental program has increased classroom performance by giving students a cheaper alternative.

Of the roughly 5,700 students surveyed, 45 percent stated they had, at some point, not obtained all the required course material for a certain course. Of students who rented, 63 percent felt the ability to rent allowed them to be more prepared for class. 

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