Recent trends show that higher education in the United States is skyrocketing in price across institutions that are both public and private. Unfortunately, these inflations are not limited to tuition. Housing, meal plans, and peripheral costs have all shot up in recent years. One of the most startling financial drains for college students is money spent at the bookstore. While some of these recent increases in expenses are difficult to combat, with rent prices rising everywhere (not just for student housing), people are taking issue with the way in which textbook prices are artificially inflated. These range from the rapid milling of new editions to the bumping of prices in school bookstores, and the unfortunate truth is that students are left with few ways to combat the corporations running these textbook mills.
The foremost issue that students face is the necessity of textbooks. Almost all universities mandate that courses have ‘required’ textbooks, even if the class will not use a book at all. People must decide whether they should blindly invest $200 in a book they will never open, or risk not having a book they might actually need because they refused to take that leap. In addition, online homework is growing in popularity, and is often packaged with textbooks to further inflate costs and promote buying the book. This brings forwards questions as to the necessity of this homework, especially when the book ends up being unused. Additionally, the online homework codes expire after being used, preventing sharing of books between classmates.
The textbook industry has also popularized a method of pumping out a new edition of every book every year. Regardless of how much new microeconomics material is actually discovered or published each year, large textbook manufacturers will shit out a new book without discrimination. The material might be entirely the same, but the pagination will be altered for the argument that it is a new book. This, in combination with online homework packages and university mandates prevents the recycling of textbooks between students. Unfortunately, Students have few options.
Renting textbooks is quickly becoming a popular choice for college students, especially because the textbook will be worthless at the end of the year anyways. Additionally, textbook pirating is a choice for university goer who lacks an extra $1200 to drop on books every semester. Now the ethics of pirating aside, this hardly seems like a sustainable option for anyone involved. Ideally, the industry needs to be restructured if there is any hope for the improvement of higher education in the United States
Michael O’Malley is a Business Administration/Theatre Double major sophomore at USC. He enjoys long walks on the beach, screaming into the abyss, and dancing with friends. He grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and does know how to read.