For generations, college students have made the trek to the campus bookstore every semester to either buy new copies of their textbooks or hunt the shelves for used editions.

Starting this fall, students at many New Jersey colleges will have a third option: renting their books.

More than a dozen colleges and universities — including Rutgers, Montclair State, Fairleigh Dickinson, Drew and Union County College — are launching programs in their campus bookstores that will allow students to rent textbooks for one semester for less than half the cost of purchasing them new.

Students will still be able to mark up their textbooks with highlighters, but they must agree to return the rented books to the store after finals or face steep fines. The rental fees are paid up front with cash, credit cards or student financial aid funds.

“They are trying to give students what they want,” said Charles Schmidt, a spokesman for the National Association of College Stores, a group representing nearly 3,000 campus bookstores.