Textbook Assistance for Low-Income Students at Online Colleges

affordable textbooks

The Challenge of Textbook Costs

The average college student spends $628-$1,200 every year on their textbooks and supplies. With textbook costs rising faster than tuition and inflation rates, it’s a major concern. Textbook assistance for low-income students is one of the best ways to ensure an affordable and successful education.

High textbook costs hit low-income students the hardest. Many have to choose between buying textbooks and eating lunch. Students also skip buying books or enrolling in required courses for this reason. Many borrow money and work extra hours to buy required textbooks.

All these compromises contribute to reduced academic performance, student retention, and satisfaction. About half of college students earn their degrees. But among low-income students, only 14% achieve the milestone.

Featured Programs

Online students aren’t spared either. Even with affordable tuition and fees, high textbook costs are a significant barrier. This is true even for digital books, no thanks to costly access codes.

This is where textbook assistance for low-income students comes in. The aid comes in many forms, but it boils down to increasing access to otherwise costly textbooks.

There are many benefits when affordable textbooks for online college students are available. Online students are more likely to:

  • Enjoy reduced cost of attendance while benefiting from quality education. Affordable textbooks allow students to spend more on other areas, such as internships. 
  • Gain access to their textbooks even before classes start. Early readings mean increased preparation for courses and class participation. Students can establish a strong foundation for further learning.
  • Take an active part in classroom discussions and other activities. Academic performance not only improves – but so does understanding of the subject.
  • Prepare for exams and other assessments. With textbooks readily available, students can focus on their studies. There’s less stress about borrowing textbooks or missing out on lessons.

Indeed, online college support programs for textbooks can make or break college careers.

Understanding Textbook Assistance Programs

What exactly are textbook assistance programs? Think of them as financial aid for college textbooks. Students either receive money to buy textbooks, get subsidies, or gain free access. Students may or may not receive money for textbook purchases.

The common types of textbook assistance programs are:

  • Book scholarships or vouchers
  • Access to digital resources
  • Open education; resources (OER)
  • Textbook financial loans
  • Book exchange and borrowing systems

As previously mentioned, these programs are crucial for student success among low-income students. By removing cost barriers, low-income students have improved opportunities to stay with one less thing to worry about: staying enrolled until graduation becomes possible.

Types of Textbook Assistance Available

Like student financial aid, textbook assistance programs come in many forms.

Textbook Rental Services

Students will find low-cost textbooks for online courses at textbook rental services. Online colleges and universities offer them, as do independent companies. Southeast Missouri State University, the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, and Eastern Illinois University have successful textbook rental programs.

Students can also access the textbook rental services of independent companies. Check out Chegg, Amazon Textbook Rental, and CampusBookRentals, among others. But we suggest looking into your online college’s program first.

Discount Programs

Many schools, companies, and organizations offer textbooks at a discount. Many discount programs are usually college-publisher partnerships, such as Barnes & Noble College. Jacksonville State University, Troy University, and the University of Alabama are examples of partner colleges.

Amazon Prime Student and VitalSource also offer student discounts on textbooks.

Textbook Exchanges

These platforms allow students to buy, sell, and trade old textbooks. Students can also exchange books on their own, sans any formal platform. But if you’re looking for a wider audience, you must consider the following:

  • Official college bookstores
  • University-hosted online marketplaces, such as the University of Minnesota’s Book Buyback and UT Austin’s Longhorn Textbook Exchange program
  • Third-party websites, such as BookFinder and Chegg
  • Student forums for book exchanges
  • Online marketplaces like Facebook, Amazon, and eBay
  • Social media groups

If possible, you should find these groups even before buying new textbooks. You can then quickly dispose of your used textbooks and even earn money.

Textbook Scholarships and Grants

Many textbook grants for online students specifically cover textbook costs. The best examples of textbook-specific scholarships and grants are:

  • Hooked To Books Scholarship
  • Bowties and Books Scholarship
  • Carl A. Scott Book Scholarship
  • NACE Graduate Student Book Award
  • Proyecto HACER College Book Scholarship

Many scholarships and grants also allow students to use part or all the money on textbooks.

Free Access to Textbook Programs

There are many free textbook resources for online learners, and there’s no excuse not to use them. Be sure to check out these free resources.

  • College libraries usually have textbook loan programs. Students can borrow – check out – textbooks for limited periods.
  • Public libraries allow verified college students to borrow textbooks and reference books for a restricted period.
  • Online platforms offer digital textbooks and other learning resources for free, too. Note, however, that there are limitations in access, quality, and relevance. Check out MIT OpenCourseWare, IntechOpen, and OpenStax.
  • Open educational resources (OER) are becoming more popular among online students, too. These are free materials that users can modify and share. These include textbooks, lectures, and modules. OERs are characterized by their accessibility, adaptability, and collaboration. Khan Academy and OpenStax are examples.

Indeed, if you can get textbooks for free, go for it. Also, many online universities include new textbook costs or rental costs in the tuition. Students can be spared the financial discomfort of hidden or surprise charges. But it’s important to know the terms and conditions before signing on.

Note, too, that every online university has specific terms and conditions for its textbook assistance programs. When in doubt, talk to concerned officials for more information.

Here are notable online universities with textbook assistance programs.

Liberty University

LU is a partner school of Barnes & Noble College. Students can purchase new traditional and digital textbooks using online book vouchers. Barnes & Noble College also allows students to buy, sell, and rent textbooks.

University of Oregon

Students can apply for online college scholarships for textbooks at UO. Eligible students receive subsidies for their required textbook purchases. This is a first-come, first-served program with limited funds.

UO offers its UO Libraries Free and Affordable Materials Guide Resources. Here, students can check out if the university libraries have traditional and digital textbook copies. UO libraries also have OERs.

Students can also sell their used textbooks at the Duck Store. There’s also the Resource Pond, where textbooks are offered on loan. The Women’s Center has a book aid program where the center buys new books, loans them to students, and places used books in the Resource Library for future use.

Florida Atlantic University

The State of Florida and FAU have adopted many textbook affordability initiatives. There’s the Short-term Advance Program, a form of financial aid. FAU students can also receive stipends through the RISE Program Book Stipend. Check out the Follett Price Match Guarantee, too.

North Park University Chicago

The private Christian University has its Brandel Library Textbook Reserve program where students can use textbooks in the library. Students can also buy and rent textbooks at the North Park Online Bookstore. The university also provides need-based book vouchers.

Northwest Missouri State University

NW Missouri’s Textbook Services manages its textbook rental program. Students can rent primary course textbooks for their undergraduate courses. The rental fee is based on a per-credit basis. Students can rent the textbooks for a semester.

Of course, you must adopt other college textbook cost-saving tips. You can, for example, use online comparison tools when buying books. Sharing textbooks with classmates that aren’t used daily is also a good idea. You may also ask professors for course packs.

How to Apply for Textbook Assistance

Textbook assistance programs offered by online universities have specific eligibility requirements and application processes. Your job is to comply with these requirements and follow the process. Again, think of it as applying for financial aid. You must submit complete documentation and submit them on time.

With that said, here are the general steps when applying to textbook assistance programs.

  • Do your research on available textbook assistance programs.

You can check out institutional and external programs. Ask for information from your college admissions or financial aid officers. Search your local community and the Internet for these programs.

  • Understand the eligibility requirements.

Many programs have merit-based eligibility requirements, meaning they are based on academic performance and membership. Most have need-based criteria, which can mean filing your FAFSA. 

  • Gather the required documents.

The typical textbook assistance programs require proof of enrollment, student ID, and proof of income, among others. Be sure that your supporting documents are complete, accurate, and updated. You must also complete an application form.

Then, submit your completed application form and supporting documents to the proper authority.

Conclusion: Making Textbooks Affordable for Every Student

In conclusion, low-income online students will benefit from textbook assistance programs. These will reduce their total cost of attendance and, thus, enable them to earn their degrees.

If you believe that you will benefit, too, then go for it. You will find that being able to study your textbooks without worrying about their costs lifts a heavy burden. Your ability to focus on your studies increases, and so does your knowledge and skills.