Editorial: Textbook costs are holding Del Mar back


Editorial Board

Del Mar College and other community colleges have a well-earned reputation for offering affordable higher education and training. To many, they are a saving grace and a life-changing opportunity. They make credible education accessible during a time when four-year universities have become an ever-distant dream for economically disadvantaged communities, and those who do make it are faced with the threat of lifelong debt.

Yet despite this promise of accessibility and affordability, community colleges have yet to reach the full potential of that promise. While it can be difficult to make changes to tuition costs due to having to meet the financial needs of every department and every project, there remains a single student-side cost that continues to not only impede affordability, but student performance as well.

Textbooks — the bane of students at the beginning of every semester. Like ankle weights, they slow Del Mar College and keep it from its full potential.

Though costs vary from student to student, the Del Mar College website states that an in-district student taking 15 credit hours for the spring 2023 semester will likely pay $1,690 in tuition and fees. Based on the web site’s data, the average cost per credit hour is about $120.

According to a 2020 report published by the College Board, students in the United States spend on average of $413 on textbooks alone. If the average cost for a Del Mar student is comparable to the national average, then the cost of our books alone makes up a larger share of our semester costs than an entire three-hour course. For a student who might be in rough straits financially, it could be the difference between taking 15 credit hours this semester or 12, a decision that can heavily affect their time to graduate.

If a student decides to take the course anyway and simply does not get all the course materials, lacking the proper textbook can harm academic outcomes due to attempting the course with a handicap.

As the cost is primarily student-side, there are options to work around the financial issue by pursuing other purchasing options and bypassing the campus bookstore. Most textbooks can be found at much more reasonable prices on online resale shops and used bookstores.

But if the college wants to support its students and fulfil the promise of accessibility and affordability, it needs to start making changes on an institutional level. Options such as Open Educational Resources (OERs) exist. These are learning and teaching materials that are in the public domain and free to distribute in any medium. The college could also look into the viability of switching out physical textbooks for digital resources that might be more affordable for students.

Some institutions have even taken to hosting book swaps, which give students the option of exchanging their old textbooks for those provided by other students. A classic take-a-penny, leave-a-penny scheme. It’s not a comprehensive solution, but it would be a step in the right direction.

11 thoughts on “Editorial: Textbook costs are holding Del Mar back

  1. Collage books are a need and if you dont have them you might not pass.I feel that the price of the books is affecting the students and making them do worse or get into bigger debt.

  2. Students being unable to afford books is unfortunate! I’m glad we are working towards solutions. I think textbooks should always be accessible in some way.

  3. This is something colleges need to consider. Textbooks are far too expense to only be used/needed for a couple of months.

  4. I like this editorial, since I do believe the prices of textbooks is something that is holding us back as a college. And the take-a-penny leave-a-penny idea that you gave at the end was quite nice, I also do believe that would be a great first step.

  5. I agree with the article’s stance on textbook prices, and I’m glad steps in the right direction are being taken.

  6. I agree with this article I love the information of this article and how truthful it proved to be and the ideas are very wise.

  7. I completely agreed with this article. Personally I think making textbooks more excisable online sound like a great idea, for trying to help this issue.

  8. What a great article! I agree with everything, I love the idea of a take-a-penny, leave-a-penny scheme. It seems like a great idea and as stated a step in the right decision.

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