Conscious Consumer: Textbooks

James Cantu

January 24th, 2018

Kay Caprez, Kent State senior speech and pathology major, shows her Chegg books in the Kent State Library. – Leah Klafczynski/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS

Whether you’re a freshman or have already graduated, you most likely remember the excitement of your first college acceptance letters.

For some, that excitement was promptly met with dread once you realized “college costs how much?” and after some debating, resigned yourself to the costs of higher education and a lifetime of ramen.

I guess I was pretty naive to think that tuition would be the main cost that would terrorize my bank account. After all, high school textbooks weren’t that bad, barring some pricy AP classes. Surely, paying for college textbooks shouldn’t be so rough either. Boy, I was wrong.

According to the College Board, most students at a 4-year, public college pay $2,600 in annual tuition after aid, plus another $650 in textbooks.

So, how could publishers justify dropping roughly a quarter of your tuition on a bunch of paper access codes that expire in a year anyway? The same way how your iPhone 6 started getting buggy after installing that new update you’ve been ignoring for months–planned obsolescence, greed, and the advertisement of misinformation.

According to the  American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry, there has been a 812 percent increase in the cost of college textbooks and supplies since 1978. This percent increase far outpaces the costs of healthcare, houses, and inflation.

The greed textbook publishers have is directly reflected in the rising prices in textbooks, the incorporation of “online bundles,” and new editions that come out every other year.

I have noticed recently that many of my classes are promoting the purchase of online access codes where professors can assign homework that is supplemented with guided instruction and tutorials.

While going green is good, it’s taking much needed green from the students to line the pockets of multimillion dollar corporations for a product that would most likely not be available to them in the following school year.

In classes that don’t require an access code, it’s either the sheer amount of books that need to be purchased that drives up the costs, or the requirement of the latest edition that does it.

As if being nickel and dimed each semester for the array of books you’re probably not going to read for your general education classes wasn’t bad enough (sorry, Shakespeare and Plato), publishers release the latest edition of a textbook, which is most likely just a slight revision of the same book released a few years prior.

Publishers do this because they can’t make money off of used textbooks, so they effectively make their old editions “obsolete,” at least in the eyes of the professors who require the new editions.

There are a few ways to save a few bucks on buying textbooks that every college student should be aware of. When applicable, buy used/rent from a friend or a third party website. It’s still relatively better for the environment than buying a new paperback.

If it’s an older literature book, there’s a good chance it’s public domain with a free PDF somewhere. At the very least, it doesn’t hurt to ask your professor if you absolutely need the latest edition of a textbook, or to purchase that access code.

It’s no surprise to anyone but your wallets that the price of higher education is continuing to climb, and the costs of textbooks mimic that rise. In doing so, corporations are effectively cutting out those who can’t afford an education from an expanding job market that requires a college degree.

And those who do earn a degree are typically limited by the amount of debt they carry, working to get out of debt rather than working to supplement the life they want to live.

Just using those methods listed earlier to circumvent some of the costs of textbooks may work for now, but it is ultimately not sustainable. In order to prevent the education gap from widening, to prevent a generation of students from being saddled on with debt and a degree with no viable job openings, we must actively work to hold our elected officials to a standard that not only looks after the common masses, but those most vulnerable in society.

James Cantu

Opinions Editor

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