Comparing Options on Covering the Cost of Your Textbooks

college textbooksThe cost of a college education is on the rise, and that cost might be driven by an increase in the average price of textbooks. According to the American Enterprise Institute, textbook prices have risen by 812 percent in three decades, meaning that books take a bigger and bigger bite out of a student’s budget each and every year.

For students standing in line, waiting to pay for the books they need, the problem can seem overwhelming. But with a little savvy planning, students may find that they can cover those costs without enduring too much additional pain.

Credit Cards

For students facing prices that outstrip the amount of money they hold in the bank, plastic seems like an ideal solution. And – maybe, just maybe – it is.  That sounds counterintuitive, but the “good” thing about credit card borrowing is that it is structured to be paid back in the relative short term.  Student loans (see that discussion below) will often have lower interest rates, but because they’re structured to be repaid over many years, the interest charges for a short-term need like a textbook may be incurred over a decade or more.

Be careful with credit cards, though.  Credit cards can come with very high interest rates, and the costs can mount quite quickly if you only pay the minimum monthly amount. Still, students who are savvy with their credit cards could do their long-term financial health a favor.

A student’s credit score is based, in part, on that student’s:
  • History of obtaining credit
  • Debt level
  • History of paying debts on time
  • Number of credit cards open

Students who use their cards responsibly and with discipline – and who pay that debt back each month – may be building up a good credit history.

Loan Options

Some students avoid plastic and pay for their textbooks through funds obtained as student loans. Graduate students who obtain PLUS Loans, for example, are in control over the amount that they borrow on a yearly basis, and they might choose to tack on a few extra dollars in order to cover the cost of the books they’ll need for school. But this option isn’t available to all students with federal loans, as these products often come with very tight borrowing limits over which the student has little control. Students with Direct Loans, for example, can only borrow an amount determined by the school. If those calculations are askew, the student might not have enough money to pay for books.

Private loans can help to fill the gap, in some cases, as students with good credit scores may have the ability to prove that they’ll pay back the amount that they take out in a loan. These loans may originate in the private banking marketplace, but they often have a lower interest rate than credit cards, and they could be a good option for students who simply need to borrow in order to pay for their books.

If you’d like to access a private loan in order to pay your expenses associated with school, we’d like to help. Please use our “Find a Student Loan” tool to get started on your search. By providing us with a little data about the school of your choice and the amount you’ll need to borrow, we can provide you with a list of lenders who would like to help.

The cost of textbooks

College on the Cheap’s street team interviewed students and asked them how much they spent on textbooks per semester. Not surprisingly, all the numbers were high, mostly between $200 and $500.

What’s the best way to get your textbooks?

College on the Cheap’s street team asked students how they buy their textbooks for school. The students resoundingly answered, ‘through Amazon,’ or ‘online.’ For great online textbook services in addition to Amazon, check out and – these sites have huge selections, and you can rent as well as purchase your books from them.


Understanding College Costs