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Why Are College Textbooks So Expensive?

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Why Do College Textbooks Cost So Much?

If you are a student attending college, you know how expensive textbooks can be. Unfortunately, college textbooks are a requirement and there's not much you can do to change that. Why do they cost so much and what can you do about it? The government and colleges have studied this problem, and have begun taking action. Students are becoming very resourceful in finding ways to reduce their costs, either by buying cheap textbooks online, or renting textbooks. The high cost has become a hardship for many students. The only way to fix the problem is to understand it, so a solution can be found.

University Textbook Cost Increases

For the average four year college student, the annual cost of books is about $900 according to a study by the Public Interest Research Group. (Other estimates range from $400 to $1300 annually.) That was an increase of $200 over five years. This expense is in addition to already rising tuition costs, increasing the financial burden on those wishing to get a higher education. According to a recent survey, about 60% of students have chosen to do without one or more textbooks because of the cost.

Textbook cost has been steadily rising over the last 20 years, outpacing general inflation. The average increase was 6 percent per year. By comparison, during the period of 1986 to 2004, the inflation rate was 72 percent, but the textbook inflation rate was 240 percent!

The Breakdown of College Textbook Costs

Looking at the breakdown of textbook costs puts into perspective who exactly is benefiting the most from high textbook costs and who is most likely to blame for the rising expense. According to a National Association of College Stores Industry Financial Report, the breakdown of textbook costs is as follows:

1% freight cost
4% store income
7% publisher income
12% author income
17% store personnel and operation
59% publishing expenses

As you can see from the figures, the publishing costs are incredibly high. Without some change in how the publishing of textbooks takes place, prices are sure to continue increasing.

How To Reduce College Textbook Costs

The government has stepped in to help with rising textbook costs. The Government Accounting Office, GAO, has investigated why college textbook costs have been on the rise at such an alarming rate. The GAO found that increases have been largely due to the increase in costs for product development. This includes the addition of supplemental aids, such as CD ROMs, which are requested by instructors. Also the increases are partly due to revisions that are being requested more frequently.

Many state governments have helped by exempting textbooks from sales tax. There is also work to stop bundling of textbooks with supplements because many times supplements are not needed, but through bundling the cost is increased. There is current on-going work on what can be done at a government level to decrease textbook costs to students.

Keeping costs down can also be handled by professors. Much of the increase in costs have been linked to professors making requests for improvements and supplementation of textbooks. Professors need to start thinking about the cost when choosing materials for their class. There have been suggestions about placing textbook copies in the library so they can be used there instead of being purchased.

Some universities are trying out a rental system with textbooks. This allows students to rent textbooks instead of buying them and saves a large amount of money. Students can also be resourceful. They can borrow books from friends or look online for used books. Some textbooks are even available at half price as ebooks or individual e-chapters.

The rising cost of college textbooks is a problem that needs a solution. It is something that everyone, on every level, has to work together to solve. The costs will not go down until everyone works towards finding a reasonable solution. The problem must be solved so students can get an affordable education without worrying about being able to buy their college textbooks.




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