University and Community College students throughout the country are debating the price of college textbooks. Legislators, university professors ansd students came together on January 29 in Sacramento to release a new report that finds textbook publishers engaged in questionable market practices that consistently drive-up prices of textbooks for students.
The controversial report entitled “Rip-off ” was released by CALPIRG, a student led consumer protection advocacy group concerned with the price of college textbooks. CALPIRG is acronym for California Student Public Interest Group, based in Los Angeles.
Merriah Fairchild, Higher Education Advocate for CALPIRG and author of “Rip-off 101, ” said, It’s appalling that at a time when students are contending with rapid rising college costs, textbook publishers are playing games to increase textbook prices.”
The report, “Rip-off 101: How the Current Practices of the Publishing Industry Drive up the Cost of College Textbooks,” includes a survey of the most widely taught books at colleges and universities. The students and instructors of colleges in California and Oregon that use those texts found that even though each student already pays approximately $900 dollars per year for textbooks, publishers artificially inflate the price of college textbooks, forcing used books off the shelf, producing a pricier edition that bares little difference to the used cheaper version of the text.
The report stated that assembly member Carol Liu (D-Canada Flintridge) believes that the production of college textbooks merits scrutiny from educators and policy makers since textbooks affect the quality of higher education. Liu announced that she will be carrying new legislation on the subject in Sacramento.
“College costs are on the rise. Students face increasing fees and tuition, decreasing availability of financial aid, and rising costs of textbooks,” said Liu. “My legislation will encourage publishers to provide ‘unbundled’ materials, require explanations of changes made in new editions, and ask the faculty consider the price when making textbook selection decisions.”
Among the report findings:
Students will spend an average of $898 dollars per year on textbooks in 2003-04, or almost 20 per cent of the cost in-state fees. In contrast, a 1997 UC survey found that student spent an average of $642 on textbooks in 1996-97.
Price gouging in any form is unacceptable, but it is particularly outrageous when it cheats students,” said Congressman David Wu, the author of legislation (H.R. 3567) to investigate the college textbook industry’s pricing practices. “I want to thank CALPIRG for educating the about the high prices of college textbooks and I look forward to continuing the fight on behalf our students to make college more affordable for American families.”
Meanwhile at Yuba Community College District, Suman Kairan, nursing major in her 4th semester stated, “Books are very expensive. E.O.P.&S, services helps us to buy books, but it’s not enough money and I borrow books from friends and we exchange books. This semester, I spent $500 on my books.”
Manager Marylou Crawford of Yuba Community College District Bookstore said, “The only way to bring the price of college texts down is to buy used books and sell them back to the bookstore.”