Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A story in American free enterprise: College Textbook Rental

A good bit of this site’s content concerns college football. I live in a college town.  My favorite football team is the University of Alabama Crimson Tide (hence the blog’s name). And if you visit this site often you’re probably like me in that you believe the American free enterprise system of capitalism is the greatest economic engine in the history of the planet.

One of the great features of that system is the ability of entrepreneurs to spot a market opportunity, invest, and capitalize on a demand not yet being met by competitors.

Maybe you’re also like me and have one or more kids in college. If your kids are smart and made good grades in high school, many colleges and universities offer tuition assistance under academic scholarship programs. But that assistance doesn’t cover everything, and one of the major expenses associated with college is the cost of textbooks.

A new textbook can cost as much as $125, and students selling the book back to the school bookstore usually get half back, setting them back $60+ a pop, per semester, per book.
Ouch.  Is there a better way?

Check this story in the Mobile Press-Register from last July.

Renting textbooks is not a new concept, said Charles Schmidt, a spokesman for the National Association of College Stores, also known as NACS. Some schools have been offering them since the Civil War, he said.
But until recently, only a few stores have offered rentals because of the high startup costs, said Schmidt. Faculty members also were reluctant to buy into the rental program because it required them to have to adopt the same edition of the course materials for four to six semesters, he said.
Last fall, about 300 of the 3,000 stores that are NACS members offered rentals. This school year, that number will jump to 1,500 stores.
Students appear to be open to the rent option.
A NACS survey of 540 college students conducted in May showed that only 12 percent had rented books in the past. But 44 percent said they would consider the option if it were made available to them. Another 36 percent were unsure if they would rent.
Using the textbook "Bedford Handbook" as an example, Zdyb said new it costs $73, while the used price is $54. A student at UMobile will be able to rent the book for $35 this fall, he said.

God bless America, and God bless capitalism!

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This site is going to save me thousands of dollars over the next six years as my two oldest make their way through their undergraduate degrees. 

If they want to go forward for graduate degrees, it’s on them. ;)