Thousands of San Diego State students face many options when shopping for textbooks, and an important one is whether to buy or rent. A study conducted throughout last year showed 63 percent of students who rented their books felt more prepared for class.
SDSU’s Social Science Research Laboratory survey found that renting textbooks cuts costs for students while also enhancing their course preparedness.
Of the approximately 5,700 students who completed the survey, 75 percent said they had used the rental program. Of those students who rented, 33 percent felt the ability to rent allowed them to be better prepared for class. For EducationaOpportunities Program students, this number was 77 percent.
Thirty-three percent of students who rented felt the ability to rent had a positive impact on their grades. Forty-eight percent of EOP students felt the same way. Lastly, 33 percent felt renting allowed them to have all their needed course materials.
“It’s subjective evidence, but it’s what students say and its quite possibly the most important thing we have done here,” Summer said.
According to Todd Summer, campus stores director for Aztec Shops Ltd., the finding that stood out to him was lower prices on textbooks allowed for students to get more materials, which prepared them for class and enhanced their ability to perform.
Fifty-nine percent said they did not obtain all of their course material for a given semester. Of students who did not obtain all of their materials, 36 percent felt not obtaining all materials negatively impacted their grades.
There is a large difference between buying and renting textbooks at the bookstore. For example, buying a new math textbook could cost $123.49, but renting the same book could cost as low as $37.70.
“If lower prices help students get more materials for their classes, that’s the most important thing,” Summer said.
Students sometimes rent books because they know they are not going to use the books in the future, which is often the case with general education classes.
Allison Gower, a junior marketing and English major, said renting books has cut her costs in half because she rents books she will not use after she has graduated.
“Since I am also an English major, there are some anthologies that I am just not going to use again, so I rent them instead,” Gower said.
Kori Reese, a sophomore speech pathology and audiology major, said she she spent $450 buying books her first semester at SDSU. The next next semester she rented books for $283 and said she has rented textbooks ever since.
SSRL emailed students in April asking them to voluntarily complete the survey and provide information about satisfaction with the SDSU Bookstore rental program. The survey was conducted to study SDSU students’ familiarity and use with current textbook rental services.
Although there was an option for students to be one of five randomly selected recipients of a $500 SDSU Bookstore gift card, Summer said there was a good sample of students.
SDSU was one of 12 universities that received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to add titles to its rental program. The Pilot Program for Course Material Rental grants totaled more than $9 million. Another part of the grant was to study its benefits to student learning.
With the grant, the bookstore added 826 book titles, helping students save $1 million on textbooks. Summer said this totals the amount students saved in one semester from renting books instead of buying them.
Reese said with the money she spent on buying books, she could have that money towards something else.
“I probably bought and never used about $300 worth of books,” Reese said. “That’s $300 I could be using for gas since I commute.”
For students wanting to rent books from the bookstore, the number of books available has increased to 2,800 titles, which is 80 percent of all available titles. Summer said students just need to tell the cashier at the bookstore if they would like to buy the book or rent it. Students must return their textbooks by the last day of finals or buy the book at the end of the semester by paying the difference.
“I made the mistake, as a freshman — buying my books,” Reese said. “Everyone makes it seem like you’ll need everything you buy.”
Reese said she sees incoming freshmen spending money on textbooks they do not need.
“I see freshman coming in spending hundreds of dollars buying books,” she said. “and if they’re buying a really expensive book that can be rented that I know they’ll never use, I tell them.”
The SDSU Bookstore began renting books in 2006 with one or two available titles and has continued to grow ever since.