College is ripping you off: Students are cash cows, and schools the predators

Dartmouth College - Public Domain

An educational publisher wrote to me a few months back; they wanted to reprint an essay of mine that they had seen on the Internet, where it is available for free. The textbook in which they wanted to include it, they said, would be “inexpensively priced,” and authors were therefore being asked to keep their reprint fees to a minimum. The low, low price that students were to pay for this textbook: $75.95. “Approximately.”

I was astounded, but it took just a few minutes of research to realize that $76 was, in fact, altruistic by the standards of this industry. Paying $250 for a textbook is more like it nowadays; according to one economist, textbook prices have increased 812 percent over the past thirty-five years, outstripping not only inflation (by a mile) but every other commodity—home prices, health care—that we usually consider to be spiraling out of control.

The explanation is simple. The textbook publishers use every trick known to the marketing mind to obsolete their products year after year, thus closing off the possibility of second-hand sales. What’s more, textbook publishing is a highly concentrated industry—an oligopoly—which means they can drive prices pretty much as high as they feel like driving them. Meanwhile, the professors who assign the textbooks and who might do something about the problem don’t have to pay for them.

(Read the rest of the story here…)

1 thought on “College is ripping you off: Students are cash cows, and schools the predators”

  1. I am 44 years old and have returned to college after a long time off. I am constantly astounded by the price of books. My average outlay per semester for textbooks is around $300 and that is buying as many used books as I can from E-bay, Amazon, etc. What makes matters worse is that the professors are required to assign textbooks even if they have no intention of using using them in the class. For example, I paid $150 for an Astronomy textbook (used!) And we never opened it the whole semester! Ridiculous!

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
%d bloggers like this: