The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Textbook prices limit learning


Going to college in America has turned into an incredibly costly expenditure, especially for something that is becoming increasingly necessary for those seeking a career outside of a trade. A large and unexpected cost of college is the price of textbooks.

Textbooks are an essential aspect of learning any subject at any level, as they provide a valuable supplement to in-class lectures. Indeed, many classes at Mississippi State in particular require a portion of the learning to be done directly and exclusively from the assigned text. 

However, the past several decades in the world of higher education have produced an astounding increase in textbook prices, 82% just from 2002 to 2013, according to USA Today. 

This is almost three times the regular rate of inflation, so it seems as if there should be more justification for this. states that over half the costs of textbooks go directly to bookstores and publishers, which seems to be a much larger cut than makes sense. 

In fact, it even states that 77 cents for every dollar spent on textbooks goes directly to the publisher. This is suggestive of a profit-driven mindset, and one that does not in any way take into account the plight of the, “poor college kid.” I suppose the idea of 20 year olds eating ramen for dinner appeals to these giants of literature.

The five major publishing companies for college textbooks in the United States as stated by Bookscouter, Cengage Learning, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson Education and Scholastic, claim that publishing textbooks is a very difficult and grueling process that justifies the sky-high prices. 

However, with these companies being worth billions of dollars  and the professors that spend the time to write these sometimes behemoth-sized texts not being paid much of anything, it makes one wonder how true these words are. Really, there has not been much reason given for the increase in price at all. 

Mississippi State University has sought a solution to textbook prices by having the bookstores around Starkville carry loose-leaf paper textbooks, which basically means the only option for some is to purchase a 700- page book without a spine. 

This usually saves the student around fifty dollars or so, but only really benefits those who do not mind placing the contents of their textbooks in random binders and risking of losing parts of their book at any given moment. To me, this provides more inconvenience than solution. 

According to Cleveland, more than 65 percent of college students have not bought a textbook because of its price, which is an astounding number when one really gives time to consider it. Almost three-fourths of college students are refusing to buy an essential part of their education because it is thought of as an overpriced expense. 

This undoubtedly hurts students’ grades in their courses, and at the very least necessitates a much higher workload for said students. It encourages cutting corners, and in a lot of cases, internet piracy. When an issue becomes this prevalent, something absolutely has to be done about it. 

There are solutions, even legal ones, that do mot require one to neglect purchasing the book at all. Purchasing online textbooks is usually a much cheaper alternative and ensures the student has the book at all times as long as he or she has their electronic device of choice on their person. 

Websites such as Amazon allow students to compare websites in one convenient location in order for them to find the best deal. Often, open-source material is available for some textbook that might be related to a course you are taking, even if it is not the book the course calls for–this can be an option if buying the assigned text is not possible. 

Overpriced textbooks are not the end of the world by any means, but they make higher education even more expensive than it already is, without any real justification other than profit for publishers. 

This trend outlines a particularly bleak future for the next generation of college students, so our voices as students should be heard right now. Every college student has visions of making a difference, and this might not be at the forefront of problems here in America, but it is one that directly affects our futures. 

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Textbook prices limit learning