College is expensive, students must budget for tuition, housing, meal plans, and course materials costs. While the first three are usually fixed, course materials change from term to term, making financial planning for textbooks and assigned materials nearly impossible for students. Students must often wait until the syllabus is available, which is sometimes not the case until the first day of classes. This is vital information for students financial and academic planning, students should have this information available before they register for a course so they can accurately plan.
Unfortunately, disclosing textbook costs to students before course registration is not universal. All students deserve the ability to financially plan and make informed decisions about their education. Many states and campuses have found creative and helpful solutions from state legislation like Washington’s Law which requires community colleges and technical schools to disclose textbook costs to students during registration. Individual campuses have also taken positive steps – the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill implemented a feature that allows faculty to add textbook costs, syllabi, and other helpful information. Some campuses mark classes on the registration page that are zero-cost or low-cost, to help students find courses within their budget.
Students need the tools to financially plan and prepare for the term ahead; states, systems, and campuses should support students by making vital information available to them to do so.