How to Pay for College TextbooksFebruary 15, 2023
After paying your college tuition and dorm bill, you may think you’re in the clear. But if you haven’t purchased your textbooks for the semester yet, you could be in for a rude awakening.
Textbooks are one of the hidden costs of college, and they are so expensive that some students take drastic steps to save money. In one study released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund, 65% of responding students said they skipped buying textbooks because of the steep cost, even though they knew it would affect their academics.
Thankfully, there is financial aid, including college textbook scholarships, that can help. Continue reading to learn how to pay for college books and save money.
How Much Do College Textbooks Cost?
According to The College Board, textbooks and supplies cost an average of $1,240 per year at four-year universities. Textbooks will add nearly $5,000 to your overall education expenses if you complete your degree in four years.
Like college tuition, the cost of textbooks has steadily increased. In 2007, the average cost was just $988 in 2007 — 25% less than today’s rates.
7 Scholarships and Grants for College Textbooks
With the high cost of textbooks, it’s important to explore ways to reduce the cost. Whether you’re a first-year undergraduate student or pursuing a master’s degree, scholarships and grants are specifically designed to pay for your books. These are just a few examples you can find more by searching for scholarships with CareerOneStop or FastWeb.
1. Bold Great Books Scholarship
Available from Bold.org, the Bold Great Books Scholarship awards $500 to winning students to use toward textbooks. To apply for the scholarship, you must submit an essay in response to a prompt.
2. BookScouter Quarterly Book Scholarship
Every quarter, BookScouter awards $500 to a qualifying student to purchase textbooks. To apply, students must record a short video, complete a questionnaire and participate in an interview.
3. Carl A. Scott Book Scholarship
Every year, the Carl A. Scott Memorial Fund awards two $500 scholarships to eligible students. One goes to a student pursuing a bachelor’s of social work, and the other to a student obtaining a master of social work degree.
4. Coffee for Less “Hit the Books” Scholarship
Coffee for Less, an online coffee retailer, awards a scholarship valued at $500 to eligible students between the ages of 18 and 25.
5. Proyecto H.A.C.E.R. College Book Scholarship
The Proyecto H.A.C.E.R. Initiative’s scholarship is for high school seniors in New Jersey. Winning students will receive between $750 and $1,250 to pay for textbooks and other supplies.
6. Republic First National College Book Scholarship
Republic First National awards two $500 scholarships to fire, EMS, or police employees continuing their education or their children or spouses.
7. Wilhelmina Foundation Textbook Scholarship
The Wilhelmina Foundation is designed to help students afford their textbooks. It’s available to students throughout the state of Florida. Qualifying students will receive $500 to help offset the cost of books.
Using Financial Aid to Pay for Textbooks
Besides scholarships, you can also use financial aid — including grants and student loans, to pay for your textbooks. Many schools allow you to charge textbooks purchased at school bookstores to your student account, which is paid when your loans are disbursed.
Using Student Loans for Textbooks
When you take out student loans, you can use that money to cover the cost of attendance. The cost of attendance is more than just your tuition and class fees; it also encompasses other expenses necessary to earn your degree.
If you take out federal or private student loans, you can use a portion of your loans to pay for your books.
Federal Student Loans
Federal student loans often have low-interest rates, more favorable repayment terms, and borrower protections than other forms of debt.
Under the Federal Student Aid guidelines for student loans, the purchase of textbooks and supplies is a qualifying use of funds.
To qualify for federal student loans, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by federal, state, and school deadlines.
Private Student Loans
Although federal student loans are an excellent starting point, they have limitations.
Only U.S. citizens and qualifying non-residents are eligible for federal loans. And for undergraduate student loans, there are strict limits on how much you can borrow per year and over your lifetime.
If you aren’t eligible for federal financial aid or have reached the borrowing maximum, private student loans can be a useful alternative.
With private loans, you can borrow up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance, and the loans can be used for textbooks, supplies, and other college expenses.
How to Save Money on College Textbooks
College textbooks can be pricey, but there are ways to reduce the expense and save money:
- Buy used books: You can buy used textbooks from the college bookstore or online through Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Used books can cost significantly less than new versions.
- Shop around: Although the school bookstore is a convenient place to buy your textbooks, there may be other options.
- Rent your books: Renting your books and returning them at the end of the semester is another way to save money. You can rent books through Chegg or CampusBooks.
- Split the cost: If you have a friend taking the same classes, you may be able to save money by splitting the cost and sharing the book.
- Utilize open-source options: Open educational resources (OERs) are increasingly popular. These are free course materials that can be downloaded and shared. You can find OER materials at OERCommons.org.
Resources for Low-Cost Textbooks
There are some sites that offer college textbooks at lower prices. For example:
- Amazon: Amazon has both new and used textbooks, and they tend to be competitively priced.
- eBay: Students looking to get more money for their used textbooks than the college store offers often sell them on eBay. If you know the exact book you need, you could save a significant amount of money buying them through eBay.
- Project Gutenberg: Project Gutenberg is free and contains thousands of free books. Whether you need classics like Pride & Prejudice or The Odyssey, you can read them for free through Project Gutenberg.
- ThriftBooks: ThriftBooks is a web-based bookseller that sells new and used books.
Apply for a Private Student Loan with ELFI
Now that you know how to pay for college textbooks, you can explore all of your options. Between financial aid like college book scholarships and federal and private student loans, you can get the money you need to cover all of your education costs.
If you need to take out a private loan, you can check your eligibility and get a quote online from ELFI. ELFI offers loans for undergraduates, graduate students, and parents, and you can borrow up to the total cost of attendance.