College Textbook Prices Have Increased Over 1,000 Percent Since 1977

textbookprice_d7bbb96677a81c69da37daa70391dc73.nbcnews-ux-600-700While reporting on eCampus's new virtual store earlier today I told you that college students had cut their textbook spending in college bookstores by as much as 23% over the past few years. In perfect serendipity, NBC has published an article that explains part of the reason why:

According to NBC's review of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, textbook prices have risen over three times the rate of inflation from January 1977 to June 2015, a 1,041 percent increase.

"They've been able to keep raising prices because students are 'captive consumers.' They have to buy whatever books they're assigned," said Nicole Allen, a spokeswoman for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.

They're not wrong, but students aren't entirely without recourse. As an NPR investigation in 2014 showed us, the average amount students have spent on textbooks plateaued in 2002. Students are now paying only $320 per semester for their textbooks, and they've found smart ways to keep the cost down.

Students are more selective in which textbooks they buy, and they're more inclined to buy online so they can get the lowest price. If the textbook isn't strictly needed for the class then students tend not to buy them, and they're also more inclined to sell a textbook back at the end of a semester.

Rising textbook prices are also responsible for the rise of the open source textbook movement, which seeks to replace expensive college and K-12 textbooks with freely licensed versions that can be edited to suit the needs of a specific school or class.

image by wohnai

About Nate Hoffelder (11580 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

1 Comment on College Textbook Prices Have Increased Over 1,000 Percent Since 1977

  1. Would be interesting if someone would sue the US claiming the higher education system is a human rights violation.

    A few quotes from a 2012 OECD report- was too lazy to look for a more recent one
    “a number of countries have now surpassed the U.S. in the percentage of younger adults with a tertiary attainment. The U.S. ranks 14th among 37 OECD and G20 countries in the percentage of 25-34 year-olds with higher education, at 42% -above the OECD average (38%), but far behind the leader, Korea (65%).
    Although overall tertiary attainment levels in the U.S. have been high for many years and remain well above the OECD average (30%), they are growing at a below-average rate compared to other OECD and G20 countries. For example, between 2000 and 2010, tertiary attainment in the U.S. grew anaverage of 1.3 percentage points a year, compared to 3.7 percentage points annually for OECD countries overall.
    These trends are also mirrored in the graduate output of higher education institutions. In 1995, the U.S. ranked 2nd after New Zealand in terms of the higher education graduation rate among 19 OECD countries with comparable data.In 2010, it ranked 13th among 25 countries with comparable data. While the higher education graduation rate in the U.S. grew from 33% to 38% over this period, on average across OECD countries it virtually doubled, from 20% to 39%”
    source (13 pages pdf) http://www.oecd.org/unitedstates/CN%20-%20United%20States.pdf

    You can also see the difference when it comes to low income students.
    Anyway, the US is going forward but a lot slower than others so it’s falling behind.
    China is also an interesting topic, urbanization is only some 55% vs some 80% in the US and higher education as a % was low while the population is old. Still China is pushing hard and they have some 7.5 million graduates a year now, so China is surpassing the US in total number even if it’s far behind in %. They also got a lot of room to grow as the population shrinks, urbanization continues and higher education gains even more traction.
    The saddest part is that pretty much everything is going downhill in the US as politicians lose any trace of honesty. Pick any domain and the stats will show things are not ok.

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