Claremont McKenna College is offering free textbook rentals for students through the CARE Center.
To rent a textbook, CMC students visit the CMC NextDorm website catalogue and search for a textbook by ISBN, title, or author. If students find their desired book, they email the CARE Center indicating which book they want to rent, and the CARE Center will reserve it for pick-up.
If they do not return the book on or before the last day of final exams, they will no longer be able to participate in the program, according to the textbook loan contract.
The idea for a free textbook rental program came from Biniyam Asnake CM ’20, who created the NextDorm online platform along with Ryan Bellissimo CM ’20, Kara Corley CM ’20, and Lincoln Bernard CM ’21.
“We were passionate about this issue because we knew the burden of buying expensive textbooks was a problem from talking to other students and of course from our experience, too,” Asnake wrote in an email to TSL.
Though he initially wanted to create a platform for buying and selling textbooks, Asnake wrote that he decided to rent books out for free after reaching out to the CARE Center, which had an existing collection of textbooks from donations.
“CARE supports all efforts made institutionally to increase awareness and provide concrete resources to make college more equitable, accessible, and affordable,” Vince Greer, the associate dean of students for diversity and CARE Center director, wrote in an email to TSL.
The program started off slowly with only 25 of the 300 available textbooks being rented last semester, Asnake wrote. However, the program increased in popularity as students heard more about it.
“With the spring semester, we put up more flyers, more boxes collecting books, and [the program] took off,” said Isaiah Tulanda CM ’20, a CARE Fellow. Tulanda worked at the CARE Center over the summer to help organize over 1,300 books that were donated at the end of last semester.
Two hundred and eighty textbooks have been rented since the program first began. New textbooks cost an average of $71 on Amazon, according to Asnake, so students’ collective savings would amount to over $19,880.
The CARE Center has received so many textbook donations that storage space is becoming an issue, Tulanda said. Moving forward, the program is considering accepting more commonly used textbooks and donating the other books to somewhere that might have more use for them, such as a local library.
Even if a student cannot find a book through the program, “we highly encourage them to come to the Dean of Students office to explore avenues of support to purchase textbooks,” Greer wrote.
Though the other colleges in the 5Cs have various funds available to offset the costs of textbooks, none have a free rental program like the one at CMC.
“Considering the success we’ve seen at CMC, it would be nice to bring this program and application capabilities to the other [5Cs],” Asnake wrote.