Who Can Buy College Books?

March 14, 2011

By OpenClipart (OpenClipart) [see page for license], via Wikimedia CommonsAs a third-year college student, I have learned how to live on limited funds. Whether attending events that are giving away free food or drinking water at a restaurant, students are always looking for a way to minimize our spending.

Buying books every semester is a cost no student can avoid and one that, aside from tuition and living, makes the biggest dent on our bank accounts. I am very grateful for the countless options that I have been introduced to for finding books at discount price. One method that I started using just last year is book rentals.

While I would love to write a whole essay about the financial benefits of renting books instead of buying, that is not the reason I’m mentioning the topic. I bring it up because it was through using my university’s book rental system that I learned about the particular struggles of an underrepresented group of students — the ones who are undocumented.

I do not mean to say that no other students struggle to pay for college, but I have learned that students who lack a Social Security number face particular issues that a legal citizen does not face. It is here that book rentals come into play. As I complained to a friend about the cost of buying books, she mentioned to me that she could no longer rent books using the school-provided service. She told me that new regulations said that she needed a valid California ID in order to use this particular rental service.

My initial shock turned to anger as I realized that this regulation excluded the many students that could not get state identification cards because of their citizenship status. As I discussed this issue with my friend, I was enlightened on how truly difficult it can be for this community of students to continue their education.

My friend was a 4.0 student all through high school; she was an athlete and a leader in her school. Her hard work was recognized when she was accepted into distinguished universities in California.

Thanks to the California state law A.B. 540, all students can pay resident rates for public universities regardless of their status as citizens. But this law does not allow for state or federal aid to reach undocumented students. My friend and her parents are responsible for full tuition, housing, living, and supplies costs such as books.

Yet students like my friend continue to pour their hearts and souls into learning and fighting for the privilege of higher education. While federal legislation like the Dream Act would have provided students with conditional permanent residency, its failure to pass illuminates the struggles of this community of students.

While the issue of allowing undocumented students to rent books may seem trivial in the larger scheme of things, I believe one victory in what is now a grim situation can give students hope about the brighter future they are working so hard to achieve.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Anita Botello-Santoyo.

AAUWguest By:   |   March 14, 2011


  1. Nataly says:

    Thank you for bringing up such an important issue. We do not often think about or in some cases are not even aware of the unique challenges faced by undocumented students. Even though the AB 540 law opened the way for this group of students, I feel there is still so much more that needs to be done in order to help these students achieve their goals.

  2. Mireya Botello-Santoyo says:

    I have to agree. Education is a challenging expencieve even with help. And I trully do believe that education is a RIGHT that should be guaranteed to all people.

  3. JoAnna Quejada says:

    Thanks for sharing this story, I hope this raises awareness about the continuing struggles and obstacles of undocumented students.


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