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As every UR student is aware, textbooks are expensive. Each semester, class texts add hundreds of dollars to an already hefty tuition cost. This problem is compounded by a myriad of complications and misunderstandings that can end up costing students more than what’s necessary.

Required textbook listings are prone to being unreliable, causing students to unnecessarily purchase textbooks. Whether a result of poor communication or a lack of awareness, professors all too frequently assign required textbooks that are rarely used throughout the class. Although supplemental readings may provide ancillary support to learning, expensive books needn’t be advertised as though they are mandatory. While many books are kept on reserve, they can’t be removed from the library — and popular classes often have long waiting lists. When just one chapter or excerpt from a text is required, those sections ought to be posted online as resources on Blackboard, foregoing the need to buy the whole volume.

This problem is especially rampant in humanities classes, where in order to get an accurate idea of what textbooks will be truly necessary, students must often wait until they can get information from professors firsthand. In one religion class, three nearly identical translations of the Bible were inadvertently listed as required, while the professor really intended for students to buy only one version.

In another case, one history class incorrectly listed several unnecessary novels, while also neglecting to mention several required, hard-to-find books. Professors should simply be more careful when labeling books as “required,” judiciously selecting those that are merely “recommended.” This sort of mistake can end up causing students’ performance — as well their wallets — to suffer.

For these reasons, students typically don’t learn whether a particular book is worthwhile to buy until well into the semester, limiting their ability to obtain refunds. According to the bookstore’s return policy, textbooks can only be refunded within the first week of classes. Students trying to save money by purchasing their books online may end up completely out-of-luck when they happen to buy an unnecessary book.

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