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College textbook prices continue unchecked skyrocketing

Incoming college freshmen–and their parents–know their education is going to cost them. And over the past five years, the price tag on a bachelor’s degree has certainly become steeper.

But schooling alone isn’t the only expense that has skyrocketed, and anyone who has bought a full-priced course textbook can tell you that much.

Since the semester has just begun, the hurt from most students’ recent textbook purchases are probably still fresh in their minds, as well in their bank accounts. Costs vary from class to class and major to major, but the dread that accompanies shelling out for textbooks each semester is universal.

According to a Jan. 3 Atlantic Newspaper article titled “Why are College Textbooks so Absurdly Expensive?” the average college student spends about $655 annually on textbooks and supplies. The article reports that number is down from $702 four years ago, which is likely due to rental services and used book options. However, an extra $655 each year is still a hefty amount to tack onto tuition payments.

In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that college textbooks costs have increased 812 percent since 1978. To put that number into perspective, medical costs have increased 575 percent since the same year, and the consumer price index is up 250 percent. Considering that is just a fraction of the rise of textbook prices, inflation is not entirely at fault.

The textbook industry is at an advantage because students need those books to pass the class. Some professors may be opting for online PDFs and e-books, but the majority still require textbooks. If students want to pass the class, they have to buy the book.

The Atlantic article also pointed out that publishers have done a lot to make the books costlier, including bundling them with required software that forces students to buy new editions instead of cheaper used versions.

All that being said, there are ways to save a lot of money each semester, even though overall cost may still be expensive.

I know students who buy brand new books every semester because they don’t realize how much they could save just by searching online. The Bradley bookstore offers ISBN numbers, and that makes searching for a book much easier.

My personal favorite site for renting books is The book selection and prices are excellent, and at the end of the semester they send reminder emails telling when the book is due. Even better, they cover the shipping cost back to them, so all students have to pay for is the box to ship it back to the company.

There are plenty of sites available that do the same thing, and it has been worth it every time. Or, if you bought a new textbook and want to sell it after finals, you can often get more money by selling it online than selling it back to the bookstore.

So even though textbooks themselves aren’t going to get cheaper anytime soon, there are endless online options to help take the sting out of a brand new semester.


Heather is a journalism major from Schaumburg. She is the Scout editor.

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