Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicate that from December 1977 to June 2015, the average price of a college textbook has gone up a staggering 1,041 percent.
Some professors are lenient and don’t require textbooks for their classes, or instead implore their students to acquire the readings however they please – ideally through cheaper, secondhand online sources such as Chegg. These are good, ethical people and someone should thank them profusely.
Other professors – often ones that teach mandatory, lecture hall-dense required courses – are a little more rigid in their textbook policies. These are the people who want students to buy the most up-to-date editions at full price from the college bookstore, heedless of the financial considerations of students.
There are multiple ways to get help buying extortionately expensive textbooks. For instance, students and their parents can apply for a $2,500 tax credit from the Internal Revenue Service by filling out their 8863 form. Students can also navigate the book-buying world with their financial aid, but how that pans out with the endlessly rising cost of college – particularly at the University of Connecticut – is speculative.
It is up to the discretion of college professors to select which books they use for the semester, and the reason why they strong-arm students into picking up the latest editions for their classes is – more often than not – personal financial gain. Yes, in the same way a pharmaceutical sales representative solicits doctors to push their drugs in a way that more or less amounts to bribery, publishers are out courting teachers to use their texts.
One must not delude him or herself that a new edition is the mandatory reading because of all the wonderful revisions and new discoveries within the field that occurred during the last edition and now. New editions are continually pumped out to curb the secondary markets (i.e., websites like Chegg and Amazon), and if teachers bought by a publisher assert the importance of these barely-amended wastes of money, there is little students can do; they need the grade.
Students are a “captive market” in that they are pretty much stuck buying whatever their professors dictate in pursuit of their degrees. Unless they can find loopholes such as lenient teachers or older versions that don’t weigh negatively on their grades (though some new textbooks come with auxiliary homework packages), they are subject to the whim of potentially bribed-out teachers who, quite frankly, don’t care how they go about getting books.
The necessity of education renders students who can’t afford university textbooks as essentially disposable, faceless money-giving utilities.