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Community College Students Hit Hard By Textbook Costs

Community college officials in San Diego County say more students can't afford their textbooks this semester.

The total cost for textbooks this year now far exceeds tuition for many students. That leaves students to pick and choose the books they really need – causing them to either do poorly in a class or drop the class.

It's a reality many campuses have long ignored, but there are signs more colleges are trying to offer options. Palomar College in San Marcos is experimenting with a book-loan program.


Richard Talmo is executive director of the Palomar College Foundation. He says students get a stipend to buy their book but have to return it once class ends.

“Students have been attempting to try and get through the semester without owning a book,” Talmo said. “Without a resource in a library (students) are doomed. It’s almost impossible to succeed. So I think we're all becoming more sensitive.”

Palomar officials say the total cost for textbooks can run from $500 to $1,000 in just one semester.

Kim Hartwell is the foundation’s scholarship coordinator. She says community college students are particularly hit hard by textbook costs.

“We've got students that have just lost their jobs, or they’re single parents trying to reeducate themselves,” Hartwell said. “That's our clientele -- so much of our community college clientele can't afford a book.”


Hartwell says she’s also working with professors so they use the same textbooks for at least two years. So far the program has helped only about 10 percent of the college's student population, but Hartwell says it's a start.