It‘s no secret that textbooks are expensive.
Financial help is on the way for middle to low-income students and families who have a harder time paying for the hundreds of dollars worth of textbooks needed for class each term.
The new American Opportunity Tax Credit, part of the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, was signed into action by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17.
It is the first of its kind because it recognizes textbooks and course materials as allowable expenses that can be written off under higher education tax credits, according to a press release from National Association of College Stores (NACS).
Many students will now be able to write off big chunks of textbook costs, if not the entire cost.
The new tax credit is worth up to $2,500 and is accessible for all four years of education, as opposed to the current Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits, which is worth only $1,800 and covers the only first two years of education.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the new tax credit will support an additional 522,000 California students for refundable checks than currently today.
Organizations such as NACS and the California Association of College Stores approve of this new tax credit as an opportunity for more complete financing of the cost of higher education.
Richard Hershman, director of government relations of the NACS, said that though textbooks are vital for a student‘s success, they‘re not often covered by traditional financial aid.
A study done by the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance found that textbook prices have risen 186 percent between 1986 and 2004. This is an average increase of about six percent each year. More recent data from the NACS Financial Survey shows that cost of textbooks has risen from $763 per student in 2005 to 2006 to $921 to $988 per student in 2007 to 2008.
Tina Hu, a UC Davis sophomore international relations major, feels the high cost of textbooks on her wallet.
“It depends on the quarter and how many classes I take, but generally speaking, I usually spend somewhere between $200 to $300 a quarter,“ Hu said. “The highest it‘s ever been was probably in fall quarter where I had to get all new books because there were no used copies in the bookstore. I spent probably more than $300 last quarter.“
For many science students, textbook prices may soar even higher.
“For science majors, their books are usually more expensive,“ said Megan Cheung, a cashier at the UC Davis Bookstore. “Liberal arts majors‘ books can go as low as $100, but for chemistry textbooks, because it‘s in a package, it can go as high as $600.“
The American Opportunity Tax Credit is a part of the new federal stimulus plan President Obama signed into law on Feb. 17.
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