“A growing national trend is renting college textbooks as opposed to purchasing,” says Betheny Herr, communication manager for the College of Mount St. Joseph. “At the Mount, the program is called Rent-a-Text, and it's part of the national Follett program.”
Chris Cole, a spokesperson at Northern Kentucky University, confirms the textbook rental trend as part of an overall strategy to make the college experience more affordable.
“Efforts to reduce secondary costs of higher education (include) textbook rental programs, subsidized public transportation programs and so on,” Cole says.
“Given the continuing economic struggles, schools are taking a close look at their budgets and reevaluating the programs and services they offer. A growing trend will be, I think, schools no longer offering some peripheral services they currently or traditionally have offered.”
At the Mount, Follett Corporation is offering an alternative for students who traditionally had to come up with enough money to buy new textbooks or opt for buying used volumes. Follett, a $2.7-billion privately held company, contracts with educational marketplaces across the country and usually sets the cost of renting textbooks at about half that of owning brand-new books.
In a contemporary twist, the company even uses social media to track student feedback about the rental program and the textbooks themselves.
The average college student spends about $900 each academic year for textbooks and is lucky to recoup 10 percent of that expense by turning in books at the end of the year to used book vendors.
Local college officials say programs such as Follett’s offers a relief from the serious pain of buying outrageously high-priced textbooks that are frequently made obsolete by new editions.