Tennessee State University Tries To Defray ‘Sticker Shock’ Of Buying Textbooks

The Tennessee State University initiative will provide online versions of textbooks for general education classes. Credit: timuiuc via Flickr

The Tennessee State University initiative will provide online versions of textbooks for general education classes. Credit: timuiuc via Flickr

At Tennessee State University, 85 percent of the student body receives financial aid. But even after paying for tuition, there’s another hurdle: textbooks.

“Go to the bookstore, because you will really be shocked,” says Dr. Alisa Mosley, associate vice president of academic affairs. “You know, for first generation students who have no clue about how much textbooks will be, there is tremendous sticker shock.”

Textbooks normally can cost more than $800 per semester, according to her estimates, but the university recently announced a new initiative that could lower that by several hundred dollars. It has negotiated with textbook publishers to get lower price for digital versions of their core curriculum textbooks, like chemistry and English. Student will be able to access all of those general education books online for $365 per semester.

Mosley says she thinks the publishers agreed to lower their prices because not a whole lot of students buying from them anyway.

While the initiative does take a step toward embracing technology in education, it’s more about making sure students can afford the books they need.

Because of the high price tag, Mosley says, many students don’t buy their books until several weeks in — if at all.

“And you know how critical those materials are going to be to their success. You have the students fumbling around trying to figure out how they’re going to learn what they need to learn to be successful.”

Ultimately, the new textbook bundle is part of a larger initiative to help students succeed all the way to graduation. Right now, only about one in ten TSU students are finishing college in four years, and one in three students are graduating at all.

Meanwhile, while textbook costs are declining, tuition at TSU is not. The Tennessee Board of Regents approved a 6.6 percent tuition hike last month.

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