College Textbook Prices: Out of Control?

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By Steve Couroupacis

In today’s society, millions of college graduates are buried in student debt. Reasons for debt typically include tuition, housing, meal plans, and other miscellaneous costs. However, one of the most overlooked expenses of attending college lies within the required course material. The price of textbooks has increased at an exponential rate over the past decade. According to CBS News’ Kathy Kristof, the cost of textbooks over the past 10 years has risen at a rate faster than inflation. Furthermore, students not only have to worry about the cost of books but the cost of additional course material as well. In today’s technology driven world, online course supplements have become increasingly popular. In many cases, the software that comes with books is even more expensive. For example, a course may require the purchase of a textbook in addition to two online access codes. The combined cost of these materials can be upwards of $300. If you take into consideration the other four courses a student may take, this can quickly add up.

Given the bank breaking cost of textbooks, many students, like myself, try to get our money’s worth of knowledge from the text. Unfortunately, not all professors utilize the books and software they require us to purchase. There have been cases when a professor may only refer to the textbook single-digit times in a given semester. As a result, students may not buy their textbooks in the first place. While students may be economical and save by avoiding purchasing their books, their education suffers. The primary purpose of attending college is to learn but the price of course materials at the university bookstore often hinders education. This leads people to question the agenda of higher education. Is the main purpose of these institutions to educate the future leaders of society or to make a profit? While it would be naïve to think that universities do not care about making money, there has to be some middle ground.

Speaking for most college students, we are always trying to penny pinch and get the best deal available. Other vendors such as Amazon and Chegg offer textbooks at a much reasonable price, but this can only help students to an extent. In many cases, the books required by a class are not offered by these cheaper websites because they are specific to that university. Essentially, students are at the mercy of college bookstores. To get a better idea of this struggle, I interviewed two of my fellow classmates. When asked about his personal experience with textbooks, sophomore Alex Nigro responded, “The price of textbooks is absolutely ridiculous nowadays. I paid over $800 for my books last semester and was only required to use them on occasion”. Fellow sophomore Justin Bruzzese also commented on the subject, claiming that “The price of course materials is completely out of hand. I almost always buy the books on Amazon or Chegg but if I cannot find them on there I simply would not purchase the books at all”.

Although the price of tuition-related materials has risen, many students feel compelled to buy their books from the bookstore, as they have no other option. Until something is done, this will be one of the most overlooked issues in higher education. The students are the reason schools exist, therefore it is their duty to speak out on this issue and fight for their financial well-being.

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