Ask any college student, and they will tell you that the cost of textbooks has gotten out of control. A typical textbook now costs around $200 but can easily soar beyond $400. Although there are few statistics on average annual costs for books and supplies, some sources place it as high as $1,200 per term, according to an NBC News report.

Understandingly, the high cost of textbooks has students wondering if they can apply their student loan money toward the cost of supplies. For some students, the prices can be prohibitive to purchase textbooks. Fortunately, in most circumstances, student loans, both federal and private, can be used to cover textbook purchases.

Federal Student Loans for Textbooks

In all cases, federal aid and federal student loans are applicable towards textbook purchase. This is true for all categories of federal student loans, including Direct and Perkins loans.

According to the Higher Education Act of 1965, federal student aid is applicable for a laundry list of items categorized under the cost of attendance. Books and supplies are highlighted alongside tuition and fees, as an area approved for federal student loan funding.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process, is technically a contract, whereby the applicant agrees to spend the money only to “pay the cost of attending an institution of higher education.”

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It is here that the student should first determine their expected cost of textbooks for the following year. The cost of attendance is laid out in the student budget portion of the application. Don’t forget to include the expected costs associated with books and supplies during your own application.

Private Student Loans for Textbooks

Private student loans cover many of the same costs of attendance as federal loans including textbooks and school supplies. However, private loans can come with steeper interest rates and fewer protections. Before jumping into a private student loan, always pursue all other options through the FAFSA as well as any scholarships and grants through local nonprofits or private organizations.

How to Spend Money on Textbooks Wisely

There are a number of ways to save money on textbooks without risking grades. As you may have noticed at your campus bookstore, they often accept used books for either a credit or cash payout at the end of the year. The buyback program can help offset the cost of purchasing new editions at the beginning of the course.

Students can also take advantage of this buyback program by purchasing older editions of textbooks. Typically used and older versions are much cheaper, and only have minimal revisions that rarely affect the overall content.