Inflated Textbook Costs at Milton Academy
by The Milton Measure on Friday, September 16th, 2011
We Milton students have come to know certain back-to-school traditions quite well: desperately cramming our summer reading, excitedly comparing fresh class schedules, and shilling out a bucket load of cash for new textbooks and calculators.
I remember my confusion freshman year at the school’s complete lack of the classic “school supplies list.” Did Milton abhor the organization of shopping early? Was there something disgusting and wrong about making lists? Or, worst of all, were Milton students supposed to be smart enough to just ‘figure it out’ and make intelligent guesses at which model of the TI-Nspire to purchase? And then the reason dawned on me, as I arrived on campus and signed away hundreds of my parents’ hard-earned dollars: the school just wanted to make some extra dough.
As my ever-frugal father will tell you, many of the required textbooks can be found online at significantly lower prices and often in markedly better condition than the school’s offered used-saves books. For example, a used Biology textbook is a whopping $129.00 when bought at the bookstore. At amazon.com, I found the same one, brand new, for $99.58. Even for the books that can’t be bought much more cheaply, there are other options: at some schools, students are encouraged to sell their old books at the end of the year to other students, typically at significantly reduced cost. Yet, at Milton, no such culture exists. Rather, we pay for expensive books and even more expensive calculators, pressured into immediate purchases because we have class the very next day.
In addition to costing us extra cash, the current system has other drawbacks. It eliminates the possibility of familiarizing ourselves with any course material before the year begins. In the same vein, ignorance of course materials hinders changes in course planning. Many classes rely significantly on the assigned reading, and giving students the chance to preview which material he or she will be perusing for the bulk of the year might allow them to decide earlier if a class is really a good fit.
Clearly, the school is streamlining the process by having its students buy everything in one place. While somewhat expedient, this practice inconveniences families in significant ways. The atmosphere of the room is rushed, the lines crowded, the parents impatient. Mysteriously, prices aren’t named until students find themselves already at the counter, books straining heavily at their arms, wallets swiftly lightening up.
Ironically, in the Milton classroom we discuss the importance of independence and intelligent choices. Yet when class materials are concerned, we are often encouraged to just sign the line with little regard to the dollar amount listed above.
Other than the troubles of price disparities and hurried spending, withholding supply lists encourages disorganization. Beyond the basics of binders, pencils and paper, there are many needed materials that remain unknown, to freshmen particularly, until school begins. Newcomers are most likely at a loss for the specific tools that teachers are sure to require later in the year. Thus, we wait for a rushed weekend filled with rapid school shopping, rather than a reasonable week in August during which we can obtain our school supplies.
There is little reason for our school to wait until the last minute before providing us with necessary information. My guess is that next year, I will still have to hand over a lot of cash for textbooks and other supplies. I hope, however, that I will at least know what I’m paying for before I walk through the doors.
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