December 7, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 49°F


Commentary: Textbook costs burden first-gen students

College is expensive; I knew that when applying. What I didn’t know as a first-generation student, was exactly how much it was. I had known that I wanted to attend college to get away from the generational alcoholism and small town that had a hold on my family. I didn’t have much guidance, but I managed to get accepted to multiple colleges, one of them being Ithaca College. I must admit the price tag that came with the college intimidated me. However, with the help of federal loans, scholarships and a full-time job during the summer, the bill was covered. In the end, I was left with almost nothing and had forgotten to consider the cost of textbooks. 

The average textbook costs $80 to $150. One textbook. Each semester I have taken a minimum of five classes with at least three of them requiring course textbooks. That totals to a minimum of $240 each semester. Like many other first-generation students, I don’t receive any financial help from my family as they cannot afford it. Due to this sizable price, I searched for alternatives like used, older editions, PDF versions, e-books and books that were from students who had taken the class semesters before.

Through these methods, I have managed to acquire textbooks at a reduced cost or completely free. Often, I cannot always get the required materials on time for assignments and classwork. This, I know, is true for many other students as well. Many of my friends have gone through semester-long classes without the required text because they cannot afford to buy it. This reality puts them at a disadvantage because they do not have the funds for textbooks when attendance to the college is already expensive.

To combat this issue, I have pitched a program, working with the First-Generation Center and the Ithaca College Library. I reached out to Shadayvia Wallace, program director of MLK Scholars and the First-Gen Program, as well as Bernard Hogben, the library’s access service manager to create a collection of textbooks donated from students from their previous classes as a resource for current students taking those classes. This idea was created for first-generation and others that find it difficult to obtain textbooks.

How this will work: any student who attends the college and has old textbooks can donate them to the First-Gen Center to have them put into the collection that will be in the Ithaca College Library circulation desk. The system will work the same as books that are on reserve in the library. Students will have to check out a book with their student ID and will have to return it to the circulation desk after several hours. Students can search for any textbook they need on the Ithaca College Library website. We hope that as the years go on more students will donate their books and work to grow the collection.

I hope this textbook donation will relieve some of the stress related to financial issues that students may have. My wish is also that this will continue for years to come and remain a resource. This program is set to be fully upandrunning in Fall 2022. You can reach out to me at or the First-Gen Center at for more information on donating your textbooks and for updates.