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Many Wisconsin college students helped by textbook rental programs

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - As thousands of Wisconsin college students begin their fall classes Tuesday, many have saved money by renting textbooks instead of buying them.

Most of the smaller four-year UW campuses have rental programs with set prices for the year, ranging from $143 at River Falls to almost $203 at Eau Claire.

The state’s largest public campuses at Madison and Milwaukee do not have textbook rental programs. Students at the UW’s flagship Madison campus pay around $1,200 a year for their books, although the privately-owned University Bookstore rents limited numbers of books for the more popular courses.

A task force studied the idea of a rental program for the Madison campus in 2007. It concluded that such an idea would not work, mainly because of the sheer size of the 40,000 student institution.

The task force thought Internet-based textbooks were on the horizon – but according to the National Association of College Stores, 77 percent of students still prefer the good old fashioned printed books.

The Government Accountability Office says textbook prices have jumped by 6 percent a year, and 82 percent over the last decade.

The national bookstore group says rental programs now exist at almost all of its 3,000 member stores. Only a-tenth that many schools had rental programs as recently as 2009.