An Option for Frugal Students: Textbook Rental

Have you ever bought a textbook from your school’s bookstore and spent hundreds of dollars, only to find that its resale value is less than a quarter of the price? Have you been stuck buying a new textbook, or an incorrect edition? Have you tried dealing with the hassle of sharing textbooks with your friends? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you should definitely consider looking into textbook rental.

The advantage of textbook rental is that for half the price of purchasing a textbook, you get a perfectly reasonable textbook that won’t risk weighing you down after the semester if you can’t sell it back. Furthermore, you won’t be stuck with the book if your school suddenly discontinues its use or goes to a new edition. In general, these rental programs offer great terms to their customers: they guarantee delivery of the textbook as long as you give them enough time, they provide textbooks in reasonable condition and will replace a textbook for free if it is damaged, and they also offer rentals of supplemental materials, such as online access codes and workbooks.

The most popular textbook rental company at this time is Chegg.com, though Barnes and Noble, which has many stores affiliated with universities across the country, also recently launched its own rental programs. Interestingly, between the 2009-2010 academic year and the 2010-2011 academic year, these programs have increased by over 100%. In 2009, only 300 members of the National Association of College Stores offered textbook rental services, whereas now over half of the 3,000 member stores offer some form of textbook rental services to students. However, according to Senator Charles Schumer, still more than half the nation’s schools fail to offer rental services.

This increase comes on the heels of the latest revision and passage of the Higher Education Opportunity Act in 2008, which allowed institutions of higher education to apply for and receive Federal grants that would go towards alleviating the start-up costs of transitioning to textbook rental systems. This is an expansion of a pilot program that Schumer pushed through in 2005, which was largely successful. Recently, Schumer has shown interest in further expanding Federal grants so that eventually all schools will be able to offer some sort of textbook rental program.

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