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Students, faculty respond to textbook price increases

As textbook prices rise nationally, an increasing number of students on the Oklahoma Christian University campus are feeling a strain on their budget.

A study completed by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows textbook prices in the U.S. have nearly triple the rate of inflation since 1977. As prices continue to rise, Oklahoma Christian students are becoming conscious of the economic hardship their course materials place on students.

English Professor Hannah Bingham Brunner said she uses the same materials in her classroom for several years to help students find cheaper alternatives to purchasing new textbooks each semester.

“I’m definitely concerned about pricing,” Brunner said. “I try to use the same textbook so people can buy it used or buy it from other students, because I know it gets really expensive. I don’t like to choose really old textbook editions, but I do try to keep the same book for as long as I can.”

Experts say technological advancements since 1990 are one of the main factors contributing to textbook price increases. College students are known as “captive consumers,” because they have no choice but to purchase the books assigned to them by professors, regardless of price. New editions of books are published routinely, and publishers set prices without much consideration toward customer’s input.

While technology has increased textbook prices, it has also provided alternatives to students.  E-books and similar online downloads are often cheaper and more convenient than a hardcover textbook found in a bookstore. Brunner said she chooses e-books to save money but acknowledges the constant upgrades are a downfall to this decision.

“In some ways, [technology] helps lower costs for teachers who buy e-books,” Brunner said. “On the other hand, by choosing the e-book, I had to choose the most up-to-date version of the book. Some of these books are coming out with new editions every few years, so it doesn’t take long to need a new edition.”

Sophomore Garrett Hymer said he does not believe textbooks have become more valuable or informative, as a price increase might indicate.

“[Textbooks] put a strain on me because they cost a lot of money,” Hymer said. “The material in the textbooks hold up to the price at times, but I feel like sometimes the material isn’t worth the price.”

Junior Julia Nored echoed the cry of many students on the Oklahoma Christian campus and said she is concerned about the relevancy of  textbooks in some of her courses.

“Some classes are really reliant on textbooks and they say that upfront but in some classes I’ve bought a book and gone the whole year without really using it because it’s not necessary,” Nored said. “The teacher will go over the stuff and there’s really no point. I think the material can be really beneficial sometimes, but sometimes it’s unnecessary.”

Brunner said she encourages all students who are unable to afford textbooks to reach out to the Oklahoma Christian faculty as resources.

“Talk to the professor if you feel you can’t afford the book,” Brunner said. “Especially at Oklahoma Christian, talk to your professor and they’ll help you figure something out.”

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