Affordable Learning: Exploring Textbook Rental Options at Online Colleges

affordable textbooks

The Rising Cost of College Textbooks

Many people only focus on tuition costs, disregarding smaller expenses like textbooks. As a result, they are often caught off guard by these additional costs. While tuition is the main expense, textbooks should not be overlooked. Textbook rental options are a great way to make this a priority as well.

According to the Education Data Initiative study, textbook prices rise by an average of 6% annually. This means that they double in cost every 11 years. Textbook inflation is rising roughly three times the rate of inflation.

What does this mean for students? Well, more student loans.

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Many colleges and universities are looking for ways to make education cheaper for students. One popular idea is textbook rental options.

What Are Textbook Rental Programs?

Textbooks are essential in college—they serve as the learning tools for students to understand course material. However, buying textbooks can be expensive. But why?

  1. Publishers need to profit and pay copyright fees to authors for their work.
  2. The constantly evolving content necessitates frequent new editions, driving up costs.
  3. College courses typically require more books than high school classes.

These factors contribute to hefty textbook costs, consuming a significant portion of students’ college budgets. And that’s not all. There are many downsides to buying brand-new textbooks. For one, many students complain that their instructors seldom use the volumes that they have required them to purchase.

Fortunately, a lot of colleges and universities have recognized this particular problem. More and more institutions now allow students to rent physical and online college textbooks at a very low cost.

Colleges and universities handle textbook rental options in different ways. Some schools include a rental fee in students’ overall expenses, while others charge a separate fee for each book. Some schools work with outside companies for rentals, while others handle it through campus stores or libraries.

For example, the University of Wisconsin program is capped at $65.04 for a 12+ credit semester. On the other hand, Southeast Missouri State University charges $35 plus tax per course. Olivet Nazarene University allows students to easily pick up their books from the school without paying for them in advance.

Regardless of the method being used, the main goal is to help reduce students’ financial burden. This initiative allows students to save a good bit of money throughout their college education.

Benefits of Textbook Rental Options for Online College Students

However, some students may not want to rent textbooks online or physically. There are still several stigmas surrounding textbook rental programs. These include:

  • Students may worry that rented textbooks might be in poor condition or lack supplementary materials.
  • Those who want to rent textbooks online worry that they may face compatibility issues.
  • Penalties for late returns or damages over time might be higher than the average cost of purchasing.

But here’s what we say:

  1. Used does not mean dirty. Many college and private rental programs ensure quality and provide additional resources.
  2. Incompatibility is rarely an issue. There are several book versions online; you’ll be able to find one that fits your current gadgets.
  3. As long as you return them before their due dates, you’ll be fine. If you need more time, rental programs often offer options for extending the rental period for a small additional fee.

Overcoming concerns, textbook rental options can actually present a highly efficient and cost-effective solution for modern learners. Here are some of the top potential benefits of renting college textbooks:

#1: Cost savings

Textbook publishers frequently release new editions every few years. Sticking with an older edition can lead to confusion because new editions often rearrange content. As a result, students are required to buy the new versions.

Each semester, students spend over $500 on books and course materials, feeding into a huge industry. Prior to textbook rental programs, the majority of students were forced to purchase new books. But that was then, and this is today.

We’ve seen books that cost $200 rented out for $20! Textbook rental programs are especially valuable for students in specialized fields who usually use specific review books rather than their regular textbooks to prepare for board exams.

Utilizing affordable college textbooks allows students to allocate their resources more efficiently. It eases financial strain and enhances the overall learning experience.

#2: Convenience of access

Textbook rentals, especially online college textbook rental programs, offer great accessibility. Say goodbye to scouring bookstores to buy pricey books. Today, with just a few clicks, you can rent the textbooks you need from the comfort of your home.

Plus, online rental platforms often have vast inventories. They ensure that even niche or specialized books are readily available. This convenience extends beyond just obtaining the books; it also includes the flexibility of returning them. Many rental services provide free shipping labels for returns, making the process hassle-free.

You get to save money on textbooks and have the convenience of having them delivered right to your doorstep.

#3: Flexibility for returning books

Beyond helping you reduce college costs, you can also enjoy the flexibility of renting. When you rent a textbook, you can return the books at the end of the semester or rental period, unlike when you buy them and are stuck with them forever.

Some rental programs let you keep the books longer if you need more time, but you might have to pay extra. If you return books late, there might be a small fee, but it’s usually not too much, and it can still be cheaper than buying a new book. With good planning, most students can return their books on time.

This flexibility helps students handle their schoolwork better and lowers the risk of spending a lot on textbooks that might not be useful later.

Textbook rental benefits offer a breath of fresh air for online college students. They provide a solution to the common concerns students have about high textbook prices, offering peace of mind and practical advantages.

In 2007, the National Association of College Stores (NACS) reported that only 1% of higher learning institutions offered rental for cheap college textbooks. But many things have changed since then. Tuition has abruptly increased, decreasing student enrollment over the years.

Here are the top 5 reputable colleges with textbook rental programs:

University of Wisconsin

Students pay a rental fee of $5.42 per credit, capped at $65.04 for a 12+ credit semester, for access to over $600 worth of textbooks. The rental fee is part of the segregated fees on the tuition bill. 

Southeast Missouri State University

SEMO charges a flat rental fee of $35 (plus tax per course), regardless of how many rental textbooks are needed. On average, this is less than half the cost of a new textbook.

Olivet Nazarene University

ONU undergraduate students pay $25 per credit hour to use the required textbooks and materials. Students return all textbooks to the bookstore at the end of the semester. Credits without required materials incur no charges. 

University of Texas

For UA Hope-Texarkana campus classes, the textbook costs are $20 per credit hour plus tax, totaling $60 plus tax to rent all required textbooks for a three-hour course.

Southeastern Louisiana University

Despite the required textbooks, SLU offers students a $60 rental fee for courses.

How to Choose the Best Textbook Rental Option

Rental duration

The first thing you should consider is how long you’ll need it. Think about your class schedule, how fast you usually go through the material, and whether you might need extra time for review before exams. Finding a rental service with just the right duration can save you from last-minute cramming or rushing to return the book.

Condition of books

Choosing rental services that take good care of their books is important to get textbooks in excellent condition for the best possible study experience. This way, you can focus on your studies without being distracted by damaged or poorly maintained books.

Return policies

It’s also important to understand the return policies of textbook rental services. Look for providers that understand life’s unexpected twists, like sudden plan changes or accidentally losing the return label. Choose services with flexible solutions, like fair late fees and easy return processes. This way, you can focus on your studies without worrying about extra stress or anxiety.

Some of the most reliable textbook rental services outside educational institutions include:

  • Chegg
  • Amazon
  • Campus Book Rentals
  • Knetbooks
  • Valorebooks
  • TextbookRush
  • Campus Books
  • Barnes and Noble
  • BooksRun
  • Alibris
  • BiggerBooks
  • Bookbyte

Did You Know? You can also access many free textbooks online. In fact, many universities and organizations provide free course books online! Some of the most popular resources for free textbooks online include:

  • OpenStax
  • Open Textbook Library
  • Bookboon

Conclusion: Maximizing Your College Education Value

College education costs are very high. Students should save money wherever they can. One area where they can achieve significant savings is through textbook rental programs. Students can enjoy several benefits, including cost savings, convenient accessibility, and flexibility in returning books at the semester’s or rental period’s end.

You can also use free online textbooks and open educational resources (OES) to save more. You can also consider exploring scholarship opportunities for textbooks.