Books for Online Classes Should be Free!

In a time when students are losing their jobs, a book with an inflated price shouldn’t be a factor in education


Photo illustration by Cesar E Gonzalez/SAC.Media

Many students, like myself, have stressors while trying to stay focused in our studies. Since the coronavirus lockdown measures were put into place, many schools have taken the online approach. Wouldn’t it all be one less thing to worry about if textbooks or PDF’s of our courseworks were free? 

We could all agree that our school life revolves around making sure we succeed, and what better way to aid our journey than if schools provided students with free access to our books? According to recent survey data from the College Board, “The average full-time, on-campus undergraduate at a four-year school is estimated to have spent $1,240 on books and supplies during the 2019-2020 academic year.”

It is not enough to let us have a two-week free trial for softwares that requires us to complete our assignments. Most, if not all students are full-time credited and busy with classes, along with employment to pay bills, rent and miscellaneous things like the food we eat and the clothes that we wear. Most students stress on not having enough money to make it through semesters, especially when life’s struggles come at you so fast.

What is the point of “free trials” anyway? I’ve had instances where a free trial was my only way to make sure that I was on top of my coursework. However, once the trial was up it was time to give up my credit card information once again. An example is the Pearson MyStatLab access code, which is $156.00 for a statistics class alone. Now imagine having to purchase codes three other times within a semester? 

Many students also make the innocent mistake of thinking that purchasing the hard copy of a textbook is enough, but we are also instructed to purchase an online access code as well. Yes the codes are available after your purchase, but expire over time. Having to decide whether or not you want to pass a class or eat for a week should not be something students have to struggle with.

Monthly bills can include rent, health insurance, car insurance, food and clothes, which can already have a grip on our budget. Being the responsible students that we are, let us not forget the importance of our studies, no matter what the cost (and I meant that literally).

Financial aid has offers such as the Board of Governors Fee Waiver (BOGW), which is a state program that waives enrollment fees for qualifying students at California Community Colleges like Mt. SAC. More importantly it’s the Pell Grants set by the U.S. Department of Education that really helps low-income students pay their college costs including tuition, room and board and other educational fees and expenses.

Regardless of the type of aid received, some, if not all, students cannot afford to live off pell grants, student loans, or even scholarships. I can definitely relate to all you full-time students who are also working a full-time nine-to-five; that’s working 40+ hours a week! We all strive to gain our own sense of independence, and I believe that it is a big part of why we’re enrolled in school.

Our main objective is to finish our schooling, get our degrees, start our careers, and then the rest of our lives. Little did we all know that our lives have started the minute we made the decision to continue our education. Some are not as fortunate as others, and had to claim their independence at a young age. Other times it’s when life’s uncontrolled tragedies occur, leaving some to experience major losses as well.

The coronavirus has shifted our whole dynamic of schooling as we know it. One pro is being able to do it at your own pace, while a con of online schooling is the lack of tools such as a computer or laptop, or even a reliable wifi or hot-spot.

It has become a clear issue that our education’s expenses have become a part of our lives. For many students on-site resources are a way to make means, however it has become difficult with schools being closed. This adds on to the struggle of affording pay for classes, books, materials and the cost of living as a whole. Textbooks, along with access codes, remain at high costs today for many students who have a strong desire to pass their classes. Aside from the stress of passing our classes, we also have our monthly bills which always seem to add up. 

The cost of living along with textbooks needed for classes do not come cheap. During this pandemic, online learning has become the beacon for us to stay connected within classes. Along with that, “the demand for online programs and textbooks will continue to rise,” said Alex Neal, CEO and founder of

School books should be free or easily accessible for students during online courses. Books at the very least should be offered for free as PDF files, along with longer free trials of access codes for online programs like MyLab. Free textbooks should be offered as an incentive to do well in our journey to higher learning. After all we all share one common goal: to succeed in our education.