Recognizing the Financial Strain of Required Readings

Some Professors Help Students Weather the Economic Storm by Lessening the Costs of Textbooks for Class


Published: September 24, 2009

It’s your first day back to school after spending the summer avoiding buying anything remotely educational.  Your teacher passes out the syllabus, and as you read through your required texts for the semester, you are pleasantly surprised.  Your professor has graciously decided to upload all of your major readings to Blackboard.  All you’re responsible for is an older edition textbook that will set you back only 30 bucks.  So, what’s going on?

With the new semester well on its way, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) students have had to overcome the bi-annual burden of buying their college textbooks.  Textbook costs have always been notorious for emptying the wallets of students, but the nation’s year-long recession has now made finding the funds to pay for them even more difficult. While students have always tried to find ways to get around paying full price for their required texts, this semester, even some professors have come up with ways to cut the cost of these books for their students.

Lori Majewski, adjunct professor of communication and media studies, did research to find her students a cost-friendly textbook.

“I noticed that the most obvious book on magazine editing was something like $140,” said Majewski. “I just couldn’t bring myself to make my students buy this text… so I spent a good deal of time paging through books and eventually settled on three, none of which were more than $25.”

Amy Aronson, professor of communication and media studies, tries to keep a balance between choosing textbooks that her students can afford and making sure that these textbooks contain the most recent information.

“I have consistently kept prices in mind when selecting required texts, but my top priority is using the best book I can find for my students,” Aronson said. “In journalism and media studies, an older edition feels really old, really fast!  I refuse to subject my students to ideas and examples that are yesterday’s news.”

Brian Rose, professor of communication and media studies, also feels that selecting textbooks with the latest information trumps choosing a cheaper textbook to use in his classes.

“My texts need to be up-to-date with the latest versions to reflect current developments,” Rose said.

Professors have also opted to choose online sources to aide in their teaching curriculum.

“There is some good work available on the Web that can make very good teaching tools,” said Aronson.   “Also, academic journal articles can be downloaded for free, then posted as PDFs on Blackboard; I have, at times, used the article versions of scholarly book chapters instead of assigning the entire book as a means of incorporating strong, current materials while reigning in costs.”

FCLC students have seen some subtle changes in the texts being assigned to them.

“My art book costs $124,” said Victoria Illano, FCLC ’10. “But the professor told the class to just buy the book off of Amazon or borrow it from the library; she doesn’t care which edition.”

“This year it does seem like the teachers are putting a lot more up on ERes and Blackboard,” said Sarah Mastrangelo, FCLC ’12.

Daniela Grafman, FCLC ’11, had one professor in particular who went out of her way to make the textbook affordable.

“In my chemistry class, Professor Fahrenholtz not only allowed us to use an older edition of the textbook, but also made two versions of the assignments to accommodate each edition. Even though that may have been tedious for her, it was really helpful for the students,” Grafman said.

Other students have felt mixed signals from professors regarding textbooks.

“I have teachers on both ends of the spectrum,” said Adam Azulay, FCLC ’10.  “I have an old teacher who was very nice by choosing two books that were relatively cheap and she even told us not to buy it at the bookstore because it was ‘an old book you could get cheap on Amazon.’ I also have a first-time teacher who heartlessly requested five books, some in the hundred-dollar range that I doubt will be bought back for the coming semester.”

So with only some teachers adjusting the economic burden of required texts, what’s a poor student to do about the price of textbooks?

Laura Morizio, FCLC ’13, has opted to share some of her textbooks this semester.

“I share textbooks for my music class and my Italian class. It is a temporary solution, but it works pretty well. Tuition is so high and is just increasing. Fordham should create a book scholarship or include books in the tuition.”

Evan O’Donovan, FCLC ’11, has also had success with sharing textbooks.

“I have shared a text with a friend and found it a great way to save money, especially when I had an English class with a roommate. We shared the 12 assigned books and saved a small fortune,” O’Donovan said.

Iris Zalun, FCLC ’11, agrees that sharing is a good way to save money but also noted that it can pose some problems.

“I know firsthand that sharing a text with a friend is definitely a good way to save money, but it was hard when my friend and I both had to do a reading at the last minute,” Zalun said.

It seems that FCLC students have been brought together by the outrageous price of textbooks, opting to share with a friend rather than pay for each book the class requires. So grab a friend and head to the nearest discount bookstore. Hit the Web, and find the best deal out there.  Snuggle up next to your roommate and read together while you wait out the economic storm.