- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (AP) - As the economy lumbers along, the staff who run the McHenry County College bookstore are seeing more students turn to their textbook rental program to save costs.

Seeing college textbook prices rise nationally since the late-2000s recession, the MCC bookstore staff have tried to turn students’ attention toward the rental program, which can save them up to 70 percent off the retail price for textbooks and course materials, store director Karen Smith said.

“Students are saying, ‘This is ridiculous. I don’t want to pay $300 for two books,’” Smith said. “The concern is there, and the existence of rental programs is the direct result of how much books are costing students.”

The average four-year college student spends about $1,200 a year on books and materials, according to The College Board. The data follows a decade of escalating textbook prices.

From 2002 to 2013, the price of new college textbooks increased 82 percent - nearly three times the rate of inflation, according to a 2013 study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.



Feeling increased competition from online retailers like Amazon, traditional textbook publishers have been pressured over the past decade to drive up prices, Smith said. The bookstore tries to keep its resale price on textbooks affordable for students, marking up prices only to cover the store’s shipping costs, she said.

The average price for a textbook at MCC totals $59, about $10 less than the national average, according to data from MCC and the National Association of College Stores.

“We do not make money on books,” Smith said. “We are a service to students, and if we are overpricing books, we are not doing a service to students.”

At MCC, students usually are required to purchase about three to four books a semester, costing students between $200 to $300, Smith said.

For the coming spring semester, MCC students enrolled in accounting, business, chemistry and criminal justice courses can expect to pay the most for textbooks and materials, according to a Northwest Herald analysis.

A 200-level accounting course requires one textbook, available new for nearly $315 at the MCC bookstore.

Chemistry students preparing to take a 100-level course on biochemistry could pay up to $453 for four new textbooks and materials. Students opting to pay for only the course’s required texts would pay $326, if they bought new books.

The bookstore offers about half of its textbook collection for rent, as part of a rental program that accounts for 15 percent of the store’s sales. Students also can save costs by buying used materials, Smith said.

The community college last year also created a textbook task force, meant to open communication between bookstore staff and college faculty on material selection and the end cost to students.

“It’s a very real concern for us,” Smith said. “From our perspective, our success is dependent on students using us. If we weren’t price competitive, we wouldn’t be able to remain open.”

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Source: The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald, https://bit.ly/1wVzwgz

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Information from: The News-Gazette, https://www.news-gazette.com

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