Students Cannot Afford Textbook Prices

10:09 AM College Lawyer Blog 0 Comments

March 28th, 2016 

Mount Pleasant, Michigan 

College tuition and textbook prices have both risen well above inflation in the last decade and are causing serious budget issues for students. According to an article written by Tyler Kingkade on, the National Association of College Stores (NACS) stated that students will spend more that $600 per year on textbooks. However the College Board, an American non-profit organization that aims to expand access to higher education, claims the average cost of books and materials are almost $1,200 per year. 

Since 2002 the price of college textbooks has rose over 80%. In a study done by the Government Accountability Office called the "PIRG report, Fixing the Broken Textbook Market" it was determined that "between 2002 and 2013, the price of college textbooks rose by 82% - nearly three times the rate of inflation" (U.S. PIRG). The study concluded that 65% of students said they decided not to buy a textbook because it was too expensive. Of those who declined to purchase a textbook because it was too expensive, 94% were concerned that doing this would negatively affect their grade in the course. 

Why are textbooks so expensive? Well to start publishers are pushing out new editions every couple of years which drives the price of the new edition up and the sell-back price of the old edition down. Students are forced to cut costs because as tuition and textbook prices increase students do not have more money in their pockets to cover the rising costs. Ethan Senak, a higher education associate at U.S. PIRG, blames the publishers. "Even as they move into e-textbooks, publishes incorporate paywalls, expiration dates and printing restrictions that further continue the practices they've used to control the traditional market" (Senak).

Publishers also shop professors and attempt to get their textbooks to be "required" course material. Professors are not nearly as price sensitive as students are and if a professor makes the textbook required material then students are much more inclined to purchase the textbook (this obviously helps the publishers). However with the price of textbooks rising much faster than inflation there is a staggering inability for parents and students to cover the cost. The "textbook" epidemic surrounding most universities forces students to buy or rent their textbooks from third party sources or not to purchase textbooks altogether.

Some universities have adopted the concept of "open textbooks". These textbooks are online, free to download and allow for the faculty to customize the book to fit their teaching style. Open textbooks are still written by faculty and peer-reviewed similarly to traditional textbooks. On average this could save the average college student $100 per course, per semester. According the PIRG report ""If every student at the University of Wisconsin—Madison were assigned just one open textbook each semester, it would generate over $6 million in student savings in just one year,". 

Students are being forced to decide between struggling with a class or struggling with money and that's a lose-lose situation for students. As the price of tuition and textbooks continue to rise universities and publishers need to work together to make college more affordable. Student can save money on textbook prices by exploring options outside their university bookstore (such as Amazon) or ask their professors about using an older edition of the textbook. 

Tyler Webb
Editor-In-Chief, CLB
Senior Law Clerk, Levitt Law Firm 



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