It’s time to end the separation of tuition and text
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
Let’s face it, there are a lot of things about college that suck: the cost, the heavy workload, the unnecessary things you need to do (like get a WhatsApp account), or finding time in your busy schedule to meet up with a presentation group. The worst part of college, however, might just be the thing that combines all those first three points into one annoying package—the purchasing of textbooks and other material needed for your class.
Textbooks have always been a questionable expense in higher education. If you are already paying hundreds of dollars for a course, shouldn’t the books be included? However, such thinking is fantasy in the college system. You need to buy the books separately, and boy do the school and the manufacturers know it. In almost every case, you cannot complete the class unless you have the book. To show one example here, I am currently in an Earth and Environmental Science (EAES) class which requires a textbook that costs $189.99. For perspective, I could buy one year of Disney+ and one year of Amazon Prime Video and still have about $20 left over. Why is a book that I am only going to use for four months worth more than something that can give me unlimited entertainment for a year?
Some readers may be saying “Craig, we have e-texts now. They are much cheaper, and better to use.” While I agree that e-texts are much easier to use, they also have their own shortcomings. For one, you cannot return an online book, so if you buy the wrong book, or decide to leave the class in week two or three, you are stuck with an e-text that you can’t use. For something that is still so expensive, the ability to return it should still be possible. Also, you cannot sell that e-text after the class is done because it only works for six months. The expiry of the e-text is annoying. I mentioned the EAES textbook I needed before. Turns out this class had an online version for around 60 percent less at $79.99. Considering that for $189.00 I can get an old technology book which I can keep forever, why can’t I keep the e-text forever? $79.99 is a lot of money, and with that kind of money the book should be mine to keep forever, or to sell to whomever I want just like a regular textbook.
Now comes time for the Douglas College bookstore; the pandemic has made things difficult for everyone, but the worst process of this year may just be the procurement of books. If you are required to buy physical material for your classes, you need to buy it from the bookstore and get it delivered. If you want it delivered to your house, it will take seven to ten days. You could also get it delivered to the Coquitlam campus to be picked up but even that took four days for my textbook. Most of us need this material now and cannot afford to wait that long. Also, returning has become a problem. Last week I bought the EAES textbook thinking there was going to be an e-text code in it, only to find out that the bookstore has to separate the textbooks and e-text page from each other. With the e-text being better, I decided to return the regular textbook. I went to the Coquitlam campus and tried to return it, and even though there was no one in line or being attended to inside, they said I had to book an appointment online and turned me away. They said (via an email) they were going to start taking return appointments on September 21, but as of September 22 there is no section on their website to do this.
During this pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about not wanting to go back to the old way of doing things. A desire to improve our current standing not just for the few, but for the many. If this view is meaningful, then maybe it is time we fix the broken and unfair system that is the separation of tuition and text and make books included as part of our curriculums.