Online School Textbooks
In addition to tuition, the other big expense for students attending online school is purchasing online school textbooks. Over the last two decades, the cost of hardcover textbooks have soared, with prices increasing between six and seven percent each year since 1990. In fact, Congress requested in 2004 that the GAO (Government Accounting Office) investigate the reasons for such exorbitant textbook prices.
What the GAO found was that due to a combination of increasing costs involved in manufacturing books, the practice of “bundling” textbooks (books that include CD-ROMS, workbooks or other items that cannot be sold separately) and price discrepancies experienced among technical, two year and four year higher learning institutions, textbook prices were quickly becoming an expenditure almost as worrisome as tuition.
Currently, the most expensive textbooks to purchase are those in the biology, medical, computer engineering and the legal field, usually because new editions of these books are published more frequently than books in other fields of study. While college and university book stores offer students the ability to buy used textbooks for a much lower rate, the available amount of these used books is generally limited and only those who get a head start on buying their books are able to benefit.
Both traditional and online school bookstores also offer to “buy back” books at the end of the semester for up to 70 percent of the purchase price. However, what often happens is that books not being used in courses comprising the following semester will not be bought back or the textbook will no longer be used by the university because a new edition was recently published. As a result, students are left with textbooks for which they paid $200 each that are essentially worthless.
Where to Find Cheap Online School Textbooks
Fortunately, students have access to retail websites that provide usable textbooks for purchase at much reduced prices. Additionally, knowing the author, title or ISBN number facilitates finding the exact book needed and makes comparing costs much simpler.
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) allows a book to be registered with the U.S. directory called Books in Print, which keeps track of all books published in the Untied States. Traditional and online bookstores also use this number for immediate identification of fiction or nonfiction literature titles.
Ways in which students can find used online schools textbooks at reduced prices include:
- Online marketplaces where other students can sell their used textbooks as well as purchase them. Places like Amazon, Ebay, Campusbooks.com, Textbooks.com, BookByte.com and Half.com, a subsidiary of Ebay offer this service. Just remember to read your syllabus as soon as your instructor emails it to you in order to find out what books you need for the semester. Ordering and receiving in the mail them may take two to four weeks.
- Textbook rental programs are rising in popularity at traditional and online schools. Renting a textbook can often reduce the price of purchasing a textbook by as much as one-half, thus saving students hundreds of dollars in textbook expenditures each year. While the majority of traditional campus bookstores require that students use a credit card to make the transaction as a way of recouping losses due to theft or damage, online rentals do not.
- Students can rent digital copies of textbooks without owning a credit card, since an electronic copy cannot be damaged and the rental company controls how long the copy is able to be accessed.
- Required online school textbooks for certain liberal arts classes are often found in the school’s library or for free on open source websites. Students should always check to see if the library contains the right copy by searching for it using the book’s ISBN number. Students majoring in ancient, historical or classic literature will rarely need to purchase a book since most of these texts can be found online.
- Three major publishers of textbooks currently operate in the U.S.–Pearson and Thomson (Pearson and Thomson), McGraw-Hill (McGraw-Hill) and Houghton Mifflin-Harcout (Houghton Mifflin–Harcourt ). Sometimes the websites of these publishers offer free online access to previous textbook editions, chapters to newer editions and study guides that can assist students in their studies.
Online School Textbooks as Tax Deductions
The College Board reports that as of 2010, the average cost of supplies and textbooks for a college student was around $1200 per year. Many students do not realize they may be able to use this expenditure as a tax deduction on your income tax form. However, the Internal Revenue Service has specific guidelines that students (as well as parents paying for their son or daughter’s college education) need to meet before they can legally take this deduction.
Rules regarding textbook and tuition tax deductions can be found here: Tax Deductions for School Expenses.
Excess Financial Aid
Students attending college full time who are eligible for the full amount of a Pell Grant usually receive approximately $5000 per semester to use for all expenses related to attending traditional or online school. This amount is first applied to tuition costs and lab fees, with any monies left over mailed to the student or electronically deposited on a designated debit card.
While students with full Pell grants usually have enough money remaining after tuition is paid with which to purchase textbooks, it is still suggested that students spend a little time searching for the cheapest books possible so that excess financial aid can be used for living expenses and other needs that may arise while enrolled in an online school.