Expensive books cheat broke students

RBy Molly Kentala remember elementary school? Hot lunch, which was a nutritious, filling meal, cost about $1. There were multiple classes, but all taught by the same teacher – usually one who was a native English speaker and had legible handwriting. Textbooks were given to students and only required a signature to let “Mrs. Johnson” know that you had book number 15 and Jenny had book number 16. Those were the days.

Money seems, more often than not, to run the majority of our college educations. Get into a school that is affordable. Live in the dorms and have a meal plan. Get a job on campus. All of these decisions are economically oriented.

We are constantly reaching into our wallets in a continual stream of giving: cash for this, check for that, charge this one. Most of us really know what it means to be a “poor college student.” With that in mind, one unnecessary expense every semester is the purchase of new textbooks.

The math department hits you up pretty hard. It makes me wonder how many hundreds of dollars passed through my hands during my elementary years. Those large, hardcover mathematics books are not cheap, which is learned when you squint at the cards labeling the texts in the bookstore. Sure, everyone has $104 sitting around. Let me go close my bank account in order to buy the required textbooks.

There is the option to buy used books, which can save quite a bit of money. But there is always the elusive used book you stumble across that smells like it was last owned by “Smelly von Brownshirt.” Or a book previously owned by a person that was highlighter happy and managed to highlight every line in the entire text. On the upside, used books allow the owner to be educated and entertained simultaneously.

After going through all that monetary strain, there is a small glimmer of hope at the end of each semester: selling back your textbooks. For some, it’s a nice bonus for putting up with a hard class for fifteen weeks. It rivals the fun of chucking your old notebook and folder into the garbage.

For others, selling back books is a depressing time. There is no greater way to add to the suffering from finals than to get back $15 for a text for which you paid $75.

What really gets me is the chocolate candy bar or fruit-flavored hard candies they give you with your money. Oh yes, after getting 7 percent of what I originally paid back, a miniature candy bar will cheer me up. It’s like they read my mind. I mean, it is a nice gesture and I do enjoy the candy bar. It just cracks me up. It could almost go inside of a Hallmark card: Sorry for taking your money; here’s some candy. Chocolate will make it all better.

The textbook dance is one of the many delightful factors college students endure with each passing semester. Buy new or used – or buy at all? Sell back or keep and likely never read again? These are tough life-altering decisions we all must make.

If worst comes to worst and the bookstore begins shelling out nothing more than coins, we can all ban together and support something other than Sir Williamson of Hall III’s inheritance. Besides, then they wouldn’t know what to do with all that leftover chocolate.

Molly Kentala is a University journalism student. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]