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By The Skanner News
Published: 26 October 2009

BELLEVUE, Wash. (AP) -- Bellevue College is embarking on a unique pilot program in the hopes of saving students money for the costs of their college textbooks.
The school in an eastern suburb of Seattle has received a nearly $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to start a program allowing student to rent all their textbooks and course materials.
School officials believe that renting books, instead of buying, could produce a net savings of 13 percent of the total expenses students face.
The college tested a similar model in 2005 when the school started one of the first textbook-rental programs in the country and was later expanded to other community colleges in Washington state.
But the initial project only covered the most frequently assigned textbooks and the rental list only covered 10 titles, not leading to a significant savings for one student.
The new two-year grant awarded through the Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education will provide the money to expand the textbook-rental program to all content materials for all classes in a student's program of study.
Most of the $293,699 in grant money will be used to buy textbook for the rental inventory. Washington state policy prevents community colleges from rental course materials purchased with state funds.
"Textbook prices have been rising at rising at twice the rate of inflation for at least 20 years," said Rachel Solemsaas, vice president of administrative services for Bellevue College. "It's not uncommon these days for students to face textbook bills approaching $1,000 every year, and that's a huge barrier for low-income students."
The benefits of the program will be offered to students who face the greatest financial need. About 250 students are expected to be helped at the start, but school officials believe it can be expanded significantly.
The project will be launched in January 2010 and is expected to be fully operational by the fall of 2010.
"We are honored by and grateful for the Department of Education's support in exploring new ways to remove that obstacle," Solemsaas said.

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