Everybody knows that college is very expensive. But it’s not just tuition costs that you need to budget for—college textbooks are another essential college cost that will take a bite out of your bank account.
The average cost of textbooks and other course materials is more than $1,200 per year, according to the College Board. Paying thousands of dollars per year for books can be a big source of stress on a student budget.
The good news is, you have many options to fund the cost of your books. This guide will show you how to pay for college books using funding sources like grants, scholarships, and student loans, and it will even provide some tips on how to get college books for free.
In this guide:
- Student Loans for College Books
- How to Get Free College Textbooks
- Other Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks
Student Loans for College Books
Textbooks are a legitimate college education expense, so you’re allowed to use student aid money to cover the cost. As a result, the most obvious way to pay for books is to use money from a 529 fund if you have one. But if you don’t, you’ll probably need to use the money you obtain from your student loans.
The borrowed funds from both federal student loans, Pell Grants, and private student loans can all be used to pay for your college textbooks, provided you have any money left over after covering tuition and room and board.
>> Read More: Student Loans for College Living Expenses
There are, unfortunately, limits on the amount of federal student aid you receive through filling out the FAFSA, so many people will need to take out additional private student loans to obtain enough cash.
Before you turn to private loans to cover textbooks, see if you can use any of these methods to get free college books.
How to Get Free College Textbooks
Due to the high costs associated with college textbooks, many scholarships and grants exist to help students cover the cost of their books. There are limits to funding available, though, and acceptance can be highly competitive, so you should apply as soon as possible to increase your chances of qualifying.
College Textbook Scholarships and Grants
Some of the scholarships and grants available to cover textbook costs include:
- The Helping Hands Book Scholarship: College students 16 and over can apply to receive a one-time award of $100 to $1,000 per semester to cover the costs of books. The application deadline is July 15 for the fall semester and December 15 for the winter semester, and applicants must include a resume or completed application; a high school or college transcript; and a $5 application fee.
- The Carl A. Scott Book Memorial Fund: Students with a demonstrated commitment to social justice who are working towards a social work degree could be eligible for this scholarship. It offers two $500 awards to eligible students with at least a 3.0 grade point average. The scholarship is offered by the Council on Social Work Education and is open only to African American, Native American, Asian American, Mexican American, or Puerto Rican students.
You should also check with the Department of Education in your state or with your school’s financial aid office to find out about additional scholarships and grants for textbooks. This will help you to find opportunities for free college textbooks that are open only to people where you live or that are attending the academic institution you have chosen.
Other Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks
Whether you’re using a scholarship, grant money, student loan funds, or your own money to pay for college textbooks, it still benefits you to find ways to save on books for your courses. Here are a few tactics that could help you avoid paying full-price for college books this semester.
- Rent your books: You can use sites such as Chegg.com to rent books at a significant discount compared to purchasing them. This is ideal for books you’ll use only for a single semester.
- Buy used: If your professor doesn’t require the latest issue or if the most recent issue of your textbook was released several years ago, buying used textbooks can be a great way to save. Used books are much cheaper than new books, and you can resell them to another student at the end of the semester.
- Buy e-books: Many textbooks now come in downloadable electronic formats that you can read on your Kindle or your tablet. While this won’t work for reference books or for books you need to do work in, it can be a great option for books you just need to read through cover to cover. This option can not only save you cash, but it can also cut down on the load you have to carry around campus. Of course, the downside is that you can’t sell your books back when you’re done with them.
- Share with a classmate: If your course is offered at different hours, consider splitting the cost of a textbook with a student attending a different lecture time. Just be sure that you can work out a system to provide you both with enough access to the book. You don’t want to put off studying for a big test only to realize that the student you’re sharing with also needs the book to cram at the last minute, too.
Bottom Line: There are Plenty of Ways to Save on College Books
As you can see, you have options for saving money on the cost of college textbooks. You may also be able to find grants for college books or scholarships to help you cover books. And paying for books with federal or private loan funds is a legitimate use of your student loan money, so don’t worry if some of your student aid needs to go towards helping you cover this big expense.
Author: Christy Rakoczy
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