College on a Dime: Socially conscious professors want you to buy books off-campus?


AOL Money & Finance writer and editor Zac Bissonnette is a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and an expert on getting a great education without going broke. Got a college question? Leave a comment and he'll get back to you!

Last month I wrote about my strategy of buying old, theoretically outdated, editions of textbooks for my classes, betting that they would be good enough to get me on the Dean's List at the cost of 1 penny per book.

But most students will head to the college bookstore to shell out hundreds of dollars for books that may only be used tangentially in their classes. However I've been told that some professors, fancying themselves socially responsible, have made the books for their classes available at off-campus independent bookstores rather than the college store, forcing students to travel to get their supplies and, in all probability, pay more than they would have to because independent shops lack the scale and purchasing power of the largest university in the state.

I'm not unsympathetic to the professor's case -- I try to shop locally too -- but here's the thing: if they want to support local businesses, they should do so with their own money, not finance their agendas with the wallets of students who are facing ever-increasing tuition and fees. It's very easy to be generous with other people's money: maybe those tenured professors should just buy the books for the students themselves, and donate some money to the struggling independents. I'd have a lot more respect for that.