LIVERMORE -- Las Positas College is taking the sting out of the high cost of education, one textbook at a time.
The Livermore-based community college has a creative new lending program that puts textbooks in students' hands for a fraction of what it would cost to buy the books.
"Textbooks are crazy-expensive," student Katie Jo Rodgess said. "This semester, I checked out books for biology and math. Even just checking out those two books saved me about $200."
The textbook lending program got its start in the fall of 2009 with more than $80,000 in funds donated by the Las Positas College Foundation. The foundation kicked in $10,000 and raised money from local businesses such as AT&T, Sandia National Laboratories, Kaiser Permanente and many more. Initially, students paid $15 per semester to check out textbooks from the library on a limited basis.
"It started out that students could check out the books for a three-day period or they could use them in the library for a two-hour period," explained Cynthia Ross, a psychology professor and student body adviser. "We did that for a couple of years."
The lending program, run by the Associated Students of Las Positas College, was expanded in fall of 2011 as the program grew in popularity and the program acquired more books. Students now pay $30 per semester to check out up to two books for an entire semester.
"The way the program is run is convenient," said Rodgess, who helps
"Relative to (state colleges), it's an enormous value for what you get," foundation CEO Ted Kaye said. "But that's not the only cost. There are all of these other costs, primarily textbooks, that can drive someone out of the community college system." The textbook lending program can mean the difference between whether a student can afford to take classes or is forced to drop out, Ross added.
"It's usually the cost of textbooks that prevents students from being able to continue their education," she said. "You're looking at $200 or $250 per book. If you have four or five classes per semester, that's a lot of money. It's a huge burden for many of our students."
The fledgling program focuses on buying books for the most popular classes, such as math and science, and also buys the most outrageously priced books. One beginning chemistry textbook alone costs a whopping $400, Kaye said.
The lending program has more than 100 textbooks on loan with plans to keep expanding. Students who run the program have spent about $50,000 of the $80,000 seed money.
"We only expect to make it bigger," said student Natasha Hrycaj, who helps run the program. "The plan is to expand it to get more books in a variety of different subjects." The program is designed so that students will continue to run it as the foundation continues to solicit funds.
"I'm just really excited about this," Kaye said. "Sometimes you come up with the right idea where it lights a fire with the donors in the community. And the students really could not be more appreciative. It's been enormously successful."
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