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Thursday, Feb 9, 2023

Mercer students face challenges accessing textbooks

Jacob Just-Buddy studies with his poetry textbook at Barnes & Noble.
Jacob Just-Buddy studies with his poetry textbook at Barnes & Noble.

As the spring semester comes to an end, prospective and returning Mercer students have already started to think about the costs for the upcoming term. One major expense some Mercerians have begun to consider is the cost of their textbooks and learning resources.

According to the College Board, some students can spend on average $1,200 on textbooks and learning resources each year, or $600 a semester, and prices for textbooks and learning resources are likely to increase each year.

Blessed Jordan, senior neuroscience pre-med student, spent around $300-$400 on textbooks each semester her freshman and sophomore years and only recently adjusted her budget to $100-$200 each semester in her junior and senior years. Jordan said the budget didn’t decrease because her textbooks were less expensive; she used different sources to purchase her learning materials.

“Freshman year was the worst because the books were so expensive, and I didn’t know of other resources I could use to get textbooks,” Jordan said. “I remember I had just paid tuition, which was already hefty, and the STEM textbook prices are ridiculously high, so it was a lot of money coming out of pocket at one time.”

Jordan wasn’t the only student struggling to buy textbooks for classes their first year. Elijah Moore, a senior law and public policy student, said he also had trouble budgeting for his textbooks.

“Last year my car broke down and I was doing my best to budget, but textbooks are unpredictable from semester to semester,” Moore said. “While $300 might not seem like much, independent students like me see that as two months’ worth of food bills.”

Before each upcoming semester, many students find the textbooks they need from the Barnes and Noble website on the MyMercer page, yet still find the process of figuring out which textbooks to use somewhat confusing.

Jordan has had her own problems in the past figuring out which learning resources she needs to get the best grades possible for her classes.

“Some courses will tell me to buy the access code and the textbook, but when I go to class, the professor will tell me I don’t need the access code or the book in some circumstances,” Jordan said. “Generally, it’s a tough time getting my money back after I’ve already purchased something from the bookstore or online, so over the years I decided to start waiting for classes to begin before I started purchasing books.”

Moore also said he found it confusing.

“What’s frustrating is that some teachers list a required textbook but then never use it or use only a few pages of it during the semester,” Moore said. “And you can’t wait until a few weeks into the class to see the syllabus or get a feel of whether or not you will use it because not all teachers hand out a class schedule with their syllabi and some teachers want to use the textbook the first week of school. “

Sanaa Yusuf, junior neuroscience pre-med student, said they felt like some of their professors were helpful with their learning material issues, but there were times where they over-purchased textbooks.

“In my experience, professors who believe knowledge should be free or at least accessible work well with students and provide a copy or will somehow provide access to a book,” Yusuf said. “For online programs, there is no remorse, and professors expect that we are willing and able to pay for these resources even when we barely use them.”

Mercer has taken action to improve prices with the new Bear Book Bundle to reduce costs for students by 35-50% and deliver materials by the first day of class, hoping to ease some students' stress in purchasing their textbooks in the upcoming semester.


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