NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- It's not enough the price of college is rising by over twice the U.S. annual inflation rate.

It's also not enough the actual dollar costs for a four-year degree from a U.S. college, for a freshman enrolling in 2015, is $134,600. For a newborn who will enter college 18 years from now, that figure rises to $323,900.

Now, college students will also get socked in the wallet by a big rise in college textbook costs in 2015, with the average cost for a new textbook standing at $79 in 2015, and $59 for a good, used textbook, according to the National Association of College Stores. The NACS also reports college students will spend $313 this fall semester for necessary course materials and another $358 for "non-critical" items like laptops and USB drives.

Consequently, you can't blame parents and students who get the sinking feeling that U.S. schools of higher learning consider them little more than an ATM machine, as they fatten up yet again on tuition and course material fees, among other charges.

Maybe today's college students should be more strategic about figuring out good ways to get their textbooks, but at a lower price than university bookstores and catalogs are charging.

That's the advice from Kristen Martinez, a college graduate and currently, a psychotherapist in private practice at Pacific NorthWell in Seattle. "In my experience, especially in undergraduate years, it is pretty useful to rent textbooks if you have the option," she said. "This works especially well for classes that you're not very interested in or won't have anything to do with your future career."

"If you're taking the class with a friend, you can even split the cost of renting the textbook and share the textbook for the semester," Martinez adds. "Of course, buying textbooks used is a great way for you to save money. Markings or scribbles on the pages don't really matter if you're just using the book for a class, and you'll get a great discount because it's already 'damaged.'" 

Amazon also has some great deals, and you can sign up with your student email address and get Amazon Prime free for a year, she says.


Other college grads agree, adding that students should check with their school's for special textbook programs. "I just graduated with my bachelor's degree, and I used textbook rental services such as Chegg and College Book Renter, which saved me hundreds of dollars over the years on my college textbooks," says Matt Casady, a graduate of Brigham Young University. "Also, buying them through my university's textbook exchange program and buying them used on Amazon saved me another $100."

Here's another tip - go to your professor and ask if he has a spare textbook they don't use. "You'd be surprised how many do," says Inga Chira, an assistant professor of finance at California State University, Northridge. "I usually have two or three copies of the same textbook just sitting on my shelf. But in the eight years I've been teaching, I can count the students who've asked me to borrow one for a semester on one hand."

Textbook publishers are also getting innovative about the way they market college books to students. "Textbooks continue to raise the price of a great education," says Bob Pritchett, chief executive officer at Faithlife, a publisher of e-books specializing in Bible studies texts. "Many are expensive, because they have a narrow focus and a small market. We offer digital editions of many textbooks at a lower cost than print, but we've been able to help even more by delivering digital libraries."


No matter how you get your books, focus on the bottom line, and steer your resources to off-the-beaten path options like rentals, book sharing, digital publishers and book portals, and going directly to your classroom professor. You'll get your book, and likely at a lower price, too.

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