Today’s ridiculously unaffordable cost of college in obtaining what is essentially a six-figure wall hanging is daunting to many, especially since most employers require that you can type 55 emojis per minute. Moreover, an uber competitive job market and lack of upward mobility basically means the only thing you’ll need to know is the difference between a venti and a grande. Most of us are readily aware of the sickeningly greedy and cozy relationship that exists between private lenders like Sallie Mae and some members of Congress, which only results in more debt for your average college student and fatter wallets for Sallie Mae.
But what about a lesser known scam that permeates college life as much as underage drinking? Like an IMAX theater to a family of four. College textbooks are another insidious and deceptive tool that college bookstores use to shake down poor college kids.
The fact of the matter is most college kids will likely shell out $300 or $400 dollars at the beginning of the semester. But if that price gouging and artificially inflated price doesn’t make you want to TP your nearest Co-op, then that college kids get to sell it back at the end of the year for peanuts certainly will. This meme brilliantly illustrates that form of highway robbery:
And you thought the frats were the ones doing the raping?
ATTN.com was able to chat with a federal higher education advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. During their discussion, they explain how college textbooks have increased more than 800 percent in price over the last three decades. Check out that discussion below, via ATTN.com :
ATTN: Why exactly are textbooks so expensive… does course curricula really change that much from year to year?
ES: Textbooks are so expensive because professors assign specific editions and just five publishers have a lock on the market. That means they’re able to drive up prices without fear of market competitors. The content of some courses changes, but not nearly enough to justify brand new print editions—sometimes every two years—that carry such high prices.
ATTN: Who is getting rich off textbooks?
ES: According to the National Association of College Stores, more than 77 cents of every dollar spent on textbooks go to publishers. Of those 77 cents, the publishing company makes about 18 cents in pure profit, while spending 15 cents on marketing, and roughly 32 percent to cover costs (paper, printing, employee salaries, etc). At the same time, the author – the person who dedicated hundreds of hours of research to write the book – only gets about 12 cents on the dollar on average.
ATTN: Is there a policy solution?
ES: Absolutely. Late last year, Senators Durbin and Franken (and Congressmen Miller and Hinojosa) introduced a bill called the “Affordable College Textbooks Act.” The bill supports the development of open textbooks – which are exactly like traditional textbooks, but they’re released under an open license. Why does that matter? Because they’re totally free to access online, free to download, and only around $20 for a hard copy. Open textbooks have the potential to break the traditional publishers’ lock on the market – and they can save students billions of dollars without sacrificing quality.
ATTN: Ok, but Congress might very well not pass anything soon. Are there any practical steps that students can take in the meantime to save money?
ES: There are hundreds of open textbooks available right now, but we need to spread the word. Students should talk to their professors about adopting an open textbook in their class. Check out the Open Textbook Catalog to see if there’s a book available for your class. In the meantime, students need to be smart consumers. There are many cost-saving options available right now: students can rent books at most bookstores, search for lower-cost e-textbooks, buy older editions instead of the most current, or join a book swap and purchase directly from other students. If those options are still too expensive, students should inquire at their campus library: copies of textbooks are often kept on file for public access.
Featured image via screen capture via ATTN.com