Lately, there has been much pressure from the federal government to make college more affordable for students. In fact, NMU just received $1.3 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (commonly known as the stimulus bill) to be specifically allocated to increase the affordability of college. To continue this effort, it is necessary that the federal government take the proper steps to keep textbook costs down.
At the start of every semester, students have too many expenses: rising tuition, housing, and dining costs. Textbooks are also high on the list of priorities and are unnecessarily costly. According to the National Association of National Colleges’ 2008 report, students spent an average of $702 on textbooks that year.
Normally, one would think that this is just another expense needed in the pursuit of higher education. But, is such a high cost of textbooks a need or just plain corporate greed?
In the past two decades alone, textbook prices have risen at twice the rate of inflation, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The main trouble with textbook prices is that there is no competition in the market after a professor or instructor assigns it to the student.
There are no generic versions of a certain textbook like there are of medicine at the pharmacy. At the end of the day, textbooks are required and students don’t have any options other than the exact product assigned.
Surprisingly, it is not a simple matter of bookstores raising their prices, but rather, the textbook publishers. After all, according to the National Association of College Stores, the profit margin in textbook sales for bookstores has remained constant since 1989. There’s no logical reasoning behind this increase in price other than to fiscally benefit publishing houses.
Furthermore, there’s anecdotal evidence found by the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (ACSFA) that publishing houses tend to refrain from revealing less expensive alternatives to textbooks unless specifically inquired about. As a result, between publishers setting the prices and professors choosing the textbooks, students are inevitably getting the short end of the stick.
Obviously, there’s no way to change the monopolizing effect that textbooks exploit since it makes sense that, in our classes, we all have to read and learn the same things. This is exactly why textbook costs should be federally regulated.
The fact is that the more affordable higher education is, the better incentive there is to attend and graduate from a higher learning institution. We can all agree that this is a great thing for individuals as well as for our society as a whole. Too often our tuition, our housing, and our food rises as college students and we can do no more than stand on the sidelines. It’s time that the federal government step up to protect the students, the future of this country, from corporate greed.