MSU helps students with textbook costs

The life of a college student can be challenging —balancing school, social life and getting enough sleep. On top of that, they have to pay for textbooks, which can cost an arm and a leg. 

Some departments at Minnesota State  aim to take away some of the sting of high textbook prices. 

One such department is Gender and Women’s Studies, where department chair Laura Harrison said they’re offering online versions of the textbooks. 

“Whenever possible, we should give students the opportunity to have an online text. It can be an accessibility issue for some students with disabilities, and an E-copy can be more accessible for them,” said Harrison. “I like to choose my texts first based on what I think is the best fit for the class and then try to make them as affordable as possible.” 

Harrison said she’s had students tell her they can’t pay for the textbook or that their financial aid hasn’t kicked in yet. Instead of saying she can’t do anything about it, she offers them help.  

“If I have access to the physical book, take it to the library, and we can put that book on reserve for students so that they can check it out for a period of time, just to bridge that gap for students when they’re not able to access the book yet,” said Harrison. 

Jeff Pribyl, a professor in the biochemistry, chemistry and geology department, provides open educational resources for his 100-level chemistry classes. 

“The students need to understand chemistry, but for them to have a chemistry textbook on their bookshelf long term probably isn’t that critical,” said Pribyl. “Typically, the chemistry textbook I would use is $100-$200 a piece, and students use it for one semester. Is the online one perfect? No, but I have not found a perfect textbook either.” 

MSU senior Bethany Hinkley is a marketing major and takes most of her classes online. She uses the online resource Cengage to get her textbooks, as it’s a cheaper option than buying physical books. While she uses a more affordable option, it still costs her a lot. 

“I’ve spent $800, if not more, on textbooks over the last four years. Cengage is always the same cost, so I don’t know how it would compare to a textbook. I like using it because all my textbooks are there,” said Hinkley. 

Harrison said that students shouldn’t be deciding to buy a textbook for class or lunch for the day. She also said that if students struggle to purchase textbooks, they talk to their professors. 

“There might be options that you don’t know about; they might have three copies of that textbook sitting in their office, and one of them could be yours. Or they might be able to put it on reserve or know where you can get it online,” said Harrison. “So please talk to your professor if you’re struggling to access your texts rather than just not doing the reading because you don’t want anybody to know.” 

Photo caption: Departments at MSU take aim to lower the prices of textbooks that often can have hefty price tags. (Lauren Viska/The Reporter)

Write to Lauren Viska at

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