There is a growing trend among Baby Boomers. They are going back to school in record numbers to finish their college degree, or to earn one that they didn't start in the first place. With the economy growing more shaky, people are looking to upgrade their skills and hang on to the job they have, or to jump ship from a hard-hit sector of the job market to learn to do something else for a paycheck.
At the ripe young age of 43, I am a college student. I am enrolled in the Associate of Science in Marketing program at Penn Foster College. Luckily for me, textbooks are actually included in the price of tuition, which is dirt cheap to begin with (about $55 a credit hour). However, I have attended a traditional brick-and-mortar university, where I had to purchase my own textbooks. Even though I bought them used from the university bookstore, I still paid more than $100 for books in some classes. Whether you are a boomer heading back to school, or a boomer's kid entering college for the first time, you'll be looking for ways to save money on something that is perhaps your biggest expense, after tuition. Here are the tried-and-true ways that I and other starving college students have found to trim the cost of textbooks.
Amazon is your Friend - Amazon.com, that is. There is no law that says you have to buy your books from the university bookstore, where you will definitely pay the highest prices. Check out Amazon, enter the ISBN number and find your textbook for as little as half the price, perhaps even cheaper. Also, don't overlook Half.com, eBay.com and abebooks.com.
Older books still work, too. - Here is the "dirty little secret" about textbooks. They don't really change all that much from one edition to the next. There might be a few updates or a rewording of certain portions of the textbook, but unless someone has discovered Darwin was completely wrong, that fifth edition of your biology book is probably just as good as the sixth edition. Just make sure it's by the same authors, and is in fact the older version of the textbook you were assigned to buy. I did this for one of my courses, and instead of paying $85 for a used book at the university bookstore, I paid $2.50 for an older edition off of eBay.
How about free textbooks? - Your local public library could possibly have the textbook you need for your next course sitting on its shelf, just waiting for you to check it out for free. Sure, the usual loan period is two weeks, but you can usually arrange to keep it longer than that. At the most, you'll pay a couple of bucks in late fees if you return it late (just make sure you actually return it. Be nice). That's still cheaper than buying the book new.
You may not need an actual book - There are now some free services that make e-book versions of textbooks available online. Sure, you might have to pull an all-nighter staring at a computer screen, but it's free! Check out Textbook Revolution and see if they might have your textbook available for reading online. Freeloadpress.com is another free online textbook service.
Now, hit the books...and good luck with your studies!