BYU aims to reduce textbook costs

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As students struggle with the costs of housing, tuition and food, the BYU Store said it does its best to reduce the cost of textbooks.

While many universities have sold their bookstores to Barnes and Noble or other chain bookstores, the BYU Store is owned and managed by BYU, according to BYU Store Custom Publishing Manager Kent Minson.

The textbook area of the BYU Store is not-for-profit, while stores like Barnes and Noble are, Minson said. He said the BYU Store is expected to run semi-independently of BYU, even paying rent to BYU to cover maintenance and cleaning costs. This also means that student employees hired at the BYU Store are paid out of store earnings, not the larger BYU budget.

The bookstore’s effort to reduce costs for students is most evident in its packet program, where a $20-$30 packet replaces the need for multiple textbooks, Minson explained. A lot of people, however, don’t know this, he said.

“We constantly fight against (misconceptions). And the problem is that it’s an ongoing battle because every four years, our customer base is almost entirely changed,” Minson continued.

Some universities have decided to battle these misconceptions by clearly advertising that money spent at the school’s bookstore supports student scholarships and jobs. This is usually done through signs placed around the store and on card readers, explained BYU Store Academic Resources Manager Roger Dean. BYU does not currently do this.

Despite the bookstore offering packets, used copies and rentals, Minson said he is always surprised by the number of students who pass on a textbook that’s only $10-$20.

According to the 2023 “Student Watch,” a research report funded by the National Association of College Stores, “students who skipped obtaining a material only saved an average of $12.”

“Student Watch” also found that around a fourth of students skipped obtaining at least one course material.

Individual professors have also made efforts. Brian Jensen, a BYU Mechanical Engineering Professor, taught Numerical Methods without a textbook.

“I really regret that they (textbooks) cost so much money for the students … if I’m going to require a textbook, I’m going to use it and make sure that I have homework problems out of the book. I make sure that I refer to it in class,” Jensen said.

While this class went well, he said a few students expressed a desire for an alternative reference outside of the free online resources Jensen had provided.

In total, BYU sold 12,562 course packets in fall 2023, saving students an average of roughly $100 per packet and saving the entire student body about $1.2 million.

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