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MAT: Movement for Affordable Textbooks

Textbook-related resources for faculty, students and administrators.

What is MAT?

MAT, or Movement for Affordable Textbooks, is an Engaged Pluralism Working Group composed of faculty, students, and administrators. MAT works to address the high cost of textbooks and other course materials for Vassar students by gathering information and raising awareness around textbook affordability challenges and solutions. 

Obtaining Textbooks & Course Materials

This page provides strategies and services for reducing the overall costs of your textbooks and other course materials.

Regardless of how you obtain materials, plan early and plan carefully. In high school, textbooks and other resources are often provided 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.

Financial Services

The Student Financial Service Student Guide 2023-2024  includes information to help understand an individual's financial aid calculation. 

"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, note:
Finding and confirming a work study position may take a few weeks, and you will not receive your first paycheck at least two weeks into the semester. Because of this, you may wish to take advantage of one a 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." (Student Financial Service Student Guide 2023-2024.)

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." (Student Financial Service Student Guide 2023-2024, p. 4)

*Note some departments, such as the Art and Film Departments, also offer stipends to help students pay for course materials.  Please contact individual departments for more information.

As you purchase your textbooks and course materials, be sure to save your receipts.

Vassar allots $900/ year for course materials. If the cost of your course materials exceed $450 per semester, bring your receipts to Student Financial Services to be reimbursed for the amount exceeding $450.

Student Financial Services is located in Main Building, South Wing 199. 

Affordability Strategies & Services

Course materials can be purchased or rented online through the Vassar College Store. Try to order course materials *early* to ensure that a copy is available for you.

The College Store offers new, used, and rental options, including “Marketplace” alternatives. You may want to comparison shop by price checking online book vendors directly, such as, abebooks.comalibris.comAmazon or Chegg.

Exploring Editions

  1. Earlier editions, especially used earlier editions, might be a more affordable option. Please make sure to consult with your instructor before purchasing an earlier edition of an assigned text. to ensure an earlier editions can be used in a particular course. Note, used editions are not always available, especially if the text has been recently published.

  2. 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.

Textbooks and other course materials might be available through the Vassar College Libraries.

Check Vassar's Library-Search online catalog for your course materials. Note, no items in the Libraries include the accompanying access codes. You may be able to purchase access codes separately. 

Reserves

Reserve items have a limited checkout period: 4 hours, 1-day, or 3-days. It is important to note when the items you have borrowed are due. 

Check for items on Reserve though Vassar's Library-Search online catalog Advanced Search.

Faculty members can submit a request for the textbooks, scores and other materials used in their courses to be purchased and put on Reserve at the Vassar Libraries through the Textbook Program.

If an item is not held by Vassar, you may be able to request the item through Interlibrary loan. However, libraries typically do not lend commonly used textbooks.

FLI Library

Rm. 234, Josselyn

Monday–Thursday: 9 a.m.–10 p.m.
Friday: 9 a.m.–9 p.m.
Saturday–Sunday: 12 p.m.–7 p.m.

This space houses used textbooks, resource books, reading books, and other course materials.  FLI students may borrow books from the library. Want to know if we have a book you need? Learn more about how to borrow a book (4MB).

No 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 you may be able to purchase them separately.

Free Bookstore: The Office of Sustainability  

Rm. 28 (Basement) Blodgett Hall

Used copies of textbooks and other reading materials available to students for free!

Donations accepted. 

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

Bio 107/108 students should contact Mary Ellen Czesak, Senior Lecturer and Lab Coordinator in Biology, maczesak@vassar.edu, Olmsted Hall.

Talk with your instructor: See if the Department has any free copies of the course materials for you to borrow. Urge your faculty to use the Textbook Program to request that the Libraries purchase a copy to put on Reserve. Faculty members can make request(s) using the Book Request Form.

Note: 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. Scores and other materials that are used as course materials may be requested through this site. 

Some departments, such as the Art and Film Departments, also offer stipends to help students pay for course materials. Contact individual departments for more information.

How You Can Help

You can help other students by sharing or donating your used course materials.

Consider:

  • Donating to the FLI Library or to the Free Bookstore
  • Lending to another student
  • Contacting the Department or professor to see if used copies are kept
  • Bring your used books to the year-end move-out SWAPR (Step Waste & Promote Reuse) event

Join MAT, the Movement for Affordable Textbooks!