Sunday, March 1, 2015

Textbooks, over the top….

Here’s another thing we need to consider as we struggle to reduce the godawful high price of a college education:

Textbooks are too expensive and too expendable.

For starters, the National Association of College Stores reports that the average textbook cost $68 in 2012. The College Board recommends that students budget up to $1,328 per year for books and supplies (by the way, for community college students, that could be almost half as much as what they spend on tuition!).

Here’s a kicker: college textbook prices have jumped 812 per cent since 1978.

I’ve been looking at textbooks, as an MBA student and as an adjunct professor, for the last 25 years, and I’m thinking textbooks didn’t get 812 per cent better since 1978.

Here’s another kicker: in my experience, most students don’t really use the textbooks much, and I defy anyone to prove that most students do the required reading. I think a typical student buys the book because the instructor says it’s required in a slightly “Make my day!” kind of voice.

And here’s another kicker: colleges and professors share the blame for the galloping cost of books. College book stores typically are profit centers. Textbook publishers for years have been adding “features” to textbooks that make the instructor’s job easier: a typical instructor’s version of a  text includes a CD or online component with graphic materials, PowerPoint slides, detailed discussion guides with questions and lengthy text responses, and high-tech test materials and question/answer banks. Publishers in general are offering a measurable amount of the materials that professors prepared all by themselves in the old days.

Let’s face it. The folks who benefit most from college textbooks are the folks who sell them and the folks who make them a course requirement.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

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