That book thing is such a ripoff. There is no reason that professors can't get together and put stuff online for students to download say for $20, especially if they are being paid by the public in state universities.
Talk to the book companies. Professors often cannot do this--at least not without risking litigation--because of copyright issues. Many texts used in my classes were not "textbooks" per se but ordinary books.
But yes, it is a rip-off. Even buying used mine were usually between $400 and $600 a semester.
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I'm sorry, but students should not have to hold down full-time or multiple jobs in addition to full-time school. I'm a good time manager and there is no way in Hell I could have done that and paid sufficient attention to my academic work. (I did work on campus, mind you, but part-time). Frankly, I don't give a crap what are the particulars of the figures, it's just gotten way too expensive and there is simply not enough aid. People should not be in debt for decades to pay for college.
I don't think one can make a blanket statement, however, about what kind of school students should or should not attend. I went to a small liberal arts school 3,000 miles from home and was perfectly happy. My mother called once a week and emailed sporadically (we had never had email until I went away to school); I never got homesick and never felt disconnected (at least not in a bad way). However, I would have felt lost and disconnected in a big state school. I'm currently taking library classes from a large university and I absolutely hate it--no individual consideration at all, one big fat administrative bureaucracy, totally impersonal. Some kids do better in a big university environment, some do better in a small college environment, one size definitely does not fit all. I would not have traded my undergraduate experience for anything.