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We are excited to share our new Library catalog and search tool! We hope that you will find it easy to search and explore our collections. If you need help, have questions, or want to share feedback, visit the Ask a Librarian page.

MAT: Movement for Affordable Textbooks.

Collected textbook-related resources for faculty, students and administrators.

Obtaining Course Materials: Plan carefully

Plan carefully: In high school, course materials (textbooks and other resources) are often provided to you and you do not have to arrange to obtain them yourself. However, in college it is up to you to plan how you will access your course materials.


The Student Matriculation Packet 2021-22  includes important information to help understand an individual's financial aid calculation and how it works at Vassar. 

Note the following regarding course materials:
"When your financial aid is calculated, we consider not just your tuition, room and board, but also budget for other anticipated costs such as books, supplies, and travel. Unfortunately, Vassar is not able to increase your scholarship aid should you find that your actual expenses exceed the budgeted amount. Therefore, you must plan accordingly and spend wisely." (p. 3)

*The cost of course materials is included in the total Cost of Attendance as an “indirect cost
which means that you are expected to budget for it on your own. Vassar assumes $2250/year in “books and personal expenses” (see “Understanding your Vassar Financial Aid Award”)


If work-study earnings will be used to pay for course materials, keep this in mind:
Even if you find a work-study job right away and begin working–which can be unusual for incoming students–you will not receive your first paycheck until two weeks into the semester. Because of this, you may wish to take advantage of one of these short-term loans:

Cash advance:

“Students may add up to $600 of V-Cash on their ID card at the start of each semester (up until October 1st for Fall and March 1st for Spring) to purchase books through the Vassar College Store. The funds are essentially a “cash advance” as the amount is charged to your student account. It is expected that the student will use their work study earnings or other financial assistance to pay off the charge before the end of the semester." (The Student Matriculation Packet 2021-22, p. 5)

Emergency loan:

“Students in need of emergency funds may apply for a no interest loan of up to $300. Application must be made to a financial aid counselor. The loan will appear as a charge on your student account and must be repaid when your next bill is due." (The Student Matriculation Packet 2021-22, p. 4)

*Note that the Art and Film Departments also offer stipends to help students pay for course materials.  Please contact these departments for more information.


Course materials can be purchased or rented online through the Vassar College Store. Their website offers new and used options, including “Marketplace” alternatives. Try to order course materials *early* to ensure that a copy is available for you. Note that used editions are not always available, especially if the text has been recently published.


In addition to purchasing course materials from the Vassar College Store you may choose to explore other options. Below are several suggestions. Often a combination of different strategies is best:

1. Electronic and loose-leaf versions
In some cases, instructors may allow you to use electronic versions of course books instead of paper copies. Please make sure to consult with your instructor before purchasing an e-book. Alternatively, you may be able to purchase a loose-leaf (a la carte) version of a textbook and have a physical copy printed and bound (See below).

2. Earlier editions

It is often cheaper to purchase earlier editions of course books, because more used copies will be on the market. But those editions may be unusable in a particular course. Please make
sure to consult with your instructor before purchasing an earlier edition of an assigned text.

3. Select an alternate vendor
You may find a less expensive copy through another vendor such as, alibris.comAmazon or Chegg.

4. Vassar College Libraries:

1. If your course materials are available, elect to check out items from the Vassar College Libraries. There are several types of loans

  1. Reserve:
    • The duration of a loan for items on Reserve varies. Some Reserve items must be returned within a limited number of hours, but others have day-long loans.  Some materials may be borrowed on a 3-day loan. It is important to note when the items you have borrowed are due.  Fines are typically higher for Reserve items that are returned late. Reserve loan chart.

    • The Vassar College Libraries are continuing a faculty textbook request policy for the 2021-2022 academic year.  If the item you need is not available in the Libraries, urge your professor to request that a copy of the textbook be placed in the Vassar College Libraries. Faculty members can make request(s) using the Book Request Form. (Note: Scores and other materials that are used as course materials may be requested through this site.) Requests will be handled on a first come, first served basis and processing will occur throughout the semester,  so requests should be made as soon as possible. 

  2. Course material may not be on Reserve but may be part of the Vassar College Libraries' general collection.  Check the Library online catalog to see if your course materials are in the collection.  In general, there are month-long loans for books and scores in the general collection. Loan chart.

  3. Ask a librarian to help you search for a copy of your course materials in another format or at another institution.  If the item you need is at another institution, they may be obtainable through  Interlibrary loan for approximately one month.

  4. A WORD ABOUT ACCESS CODES: No items in the Vassar College Libraries include the accompanying access codes.  Access codes usually come with new course materials, but can also be purchased separately for about $100.

5. Departmental Libraries:  Departments often have a collection of new and used course materials or "Desk Copies" that can be made available to students.

6. Talk with your instructor:

  1. See if the Department has any free copies of the course materials for loan.

  2. Urge them to request that the Libraries purchase a copy to put on Reserve.  Faculty members can make request(s) using the Book Request Form. (Note: Scores and other materials that are used as course materials may be requested through this site.) Requests will be handled on a first come, first served basis and processing will occur throughout the semester,  so requests should be made as soon as possible. 

7. Transitions Program Living Room and Library:  

  1. If you are a Transitions Student, you can to see if there is a used copy of the course material you need in the Transitions Library of used course materials. Directions PDF.
  2. A WORD ABOUT ACCESS CODES:  The used items in the Transitions Library do not include the accompanying access codes. Access codes usually come with new course materials, but can also be purchased separately for about $100. 

8. Borrow or purchase course materials from another student who has previously taken the course.
9. Share the cost of course materials with another student in the course.

Binding textbooks purchased "a la carte" (loose leaf format) or in PDF

Typical types of binding methods:

book binding

Image source: Accessed 8/22/21

Main Printing: Main Street, Poughkeepsie, 845-471-8011

  • Services: Print from a PDF (if permitted); Bind items using a variety of methods.
  • Call or Send email to discuss your options:  Subject:  "Book to bind (add dimensions e.g. 12"x 14", 1/2" thick, etc.)"
  • *In store: same day-depending on volume. Cost:  varies.
  • Pick-up/delivery?  Yes. Free upon request.

Staples Copy and Print Center: South Road, Poughkeepsie 845-483-0765

  • Services: Coil bind. Same day; can accommodate any number of pages. Cost $5-$7.    
  • Pick-up/delivery?  No. 

Information gathered 7/21

How can you help other students with the high cost of course materials?

Consider donating YOUR used course materials:

There are an increasing number of options for helping other students by sharing your used course materials. Consider:

  • Donating to the Transitions Library
  • Lending to another student.
  • Contacting the Department or professor to see if used copies are kept.


Join MAT, the Movement for Affordable Textbooks!