Students should get what they pay for

By Stephanie Youssef

The start of a new semester brings with it new professors, new school supplies and new textbooks for our new classes. 

Beginning my sixth semester here, I look forward to the nostalgic, and always relaxing, experience of going to the Illini Union Bookstore, browsing the endless shelves, picking up all of my required materials and waiting for what seems like hours in the long line to the cashier. The best part about this is receiving the parting gift from the register of having my wallet violated by my efforts to get an honest education.

To avoid this whole process, I wish some University professors would be more straightforward about just how “required” their class materials are.

The unfortunate truth is that the money I cough up at the bookstore every semester goes to heavy compilations of motionless black and white text that I will never lay my eyes on. Out of all of the classes I have taken so far at the University, only two have legitimately required me to open the assigned textbook to do well in the class. Many professors are thorough enough with their course information that the textbooks are unnecessary.

In addition to our tuition costs, our education requires other extensive expenses. But as a student who appreciates the opportunities and knowledge some of these expenses have bought me, I understand that a learning experience this valuable is not necessarily going to be thrown at me for free. But this appreciation only applies to the resources that I have actually used. 

A class textbook is something I am willing to pay for if it is an investment I will get some return from — whether in knowledge or in reselling.

However, much to the disappointment of me and many of my fellow students, the only return investment we get from a majority of our textbooks is in using them as paperweights.

Professors should be familiar with these expenses because the prices of our textbooks are nothing new. The cries of our wallets as we invest in expensive “required” materials have been heard all the way in Springfield. Illinois politicians have been working on funding efforts to use more open source materials in higher education. If materials are actually required, it would be helpful if professors used more open source materials as they have free licenses to universal access.

I am not directing the blame for book expenses at publishers that make the books or even at the satanic bookstores that inflate their prices well above market value. 

Rather, I am directing the blame for this superfluous and unnecessary investment at some of the professors at this university. 

Dear professors: If you know that all of the information we will need for the class will be provided in your PowerPoints and lectures, don’t assign us the responsibility of buying an expensive book we won’t open in the first place. If you know we don’t really need to use the book for your class — and I know that you know that we don’t — please respect us enough to tell us, or at least throw us a hint when you introduce the syllabus. 

As broke college students, your honesty will be much appreciated. 

In the past, I have had one honest molecular and cellular biology professor inform the class that the required textbook wasn’t really necessary — an act that saved the class valuable money, time and effort. 

Until the day when all professors are straightforward and truly understand the definition of the word “required,” there are plenty of resources for purchasing cheaper paperweights.

Stephanie is a junior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]