Students Question $300 Book Fees

With students regularly adding money to their accounts to pay for snack bar charges, there is a new awareness of account activity, and some students are concerned about the charges they see. On September 19, the Business Office charged every student account $300 for the use of books in the 2018-2019 school year.


Purchasing textbooks online can be cheaper for some students (Photo: Wyatt Friedlander ’19)

The charge is not new to Northwood, but some students discovered it when they tried to order chicken tenders at the snack bar. They were told that their account was overdrawn and that they would have to deposit $300 more to get their fried treat, essentially raising the price of the item to several hundred dollars.

In the 2017-2018 school year, Northwood initiated a textbook rental system in which students would be charged a rental fee for books, which reduced the cost of buying books by approximately 50%. Now, at the start of each year, textbooks are checked out to students, and students return the books to teachers at the end of the year.

There are both positives and negatives to this fee. The textbook fees allow the school to charge less for other fees. Students are charged extra for being a boarding student ($125 room deposit), and taking an art/music class ($25) and a science/robotics class ($50), but these costs are now much cheaper. “The system has also ensured that everyone has the correct edition, and has made course changes easier to manage during the first weeks of school,” said Dean of Faculty, Ms. Jill Walker.

Ms. Teresa Brady, the Chief Financial Officer at Northwood, highlighted the positives of averaging all the costs of textbooks among students. “Before Northwood started the textbook rental system, many kids would come to school without buying their books despite being notified a while in advance,” said Ms. Brady. She added, “This made it harder for teachers and set students behind. Also, if students chose to change classes two weeks into school, they would have had to buy new books and wait for them to come in. Now, with our rental system, books can be easily handed out.”

However, some students found that the required books for their classes were available cheaper on the internet compared to the school’s $300 mandatory fee to rent used textbooks. Jazzy Valenzuela ’21 has a typical sophomore schedule, and she would have spent $222 if she purchased all of her books new online, and she could have earned some of that money back by selling her used books to students taking her courses the following year.

Students could save money if Northwood allowed them to opt out of the rental system. These students would then be responsible for getting books by themselves before school starts. Students who opt out but arrive at school without books could still rent, but perhaps at a rate higher than the standard $300 fee. According to Walker and Brady, in previous years, when students could choose to purchase books through the school or on their own, most students who chose to purchase on their own arrived at school without books, causing serious disruptions to their coursework. Under this new system, all students have all the required books on the first day of class.

There are many classes that have required books, but some classes don’t have any. Regardless, the Business Office charged all students $300 by averaging the cost of all books, from the books used in AP courses to those in regular classes.


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