The increase in textbook prices and what students can do to save money

On college campuses around the country, there is anxiety around paying for tuition and textbooks every semester. And that anxiety is growing. Not only is tuition increasing every year but also textbooks prices are increasing rapidly. According to The Huffington Post, “College textbook prices have increased faster than tuition, health care costs and housing prices, all of which have risen faster than inflation.” Students can’t keep up with the insane textbook prices that colleges require them to pay.

According to Tyler Kingkade from the Huffington Post, on average students pay $655 on textbooks each year. A single textbook can cost as much as $300, so textbook prices for the year can be much more than $655. That average does not include students who go to a for-profit school, which can charge their students much more for textbooks.

Publishing companies have a few tricks for making the price of a textbook climb. By adding CD-ROM’s and stickers that give students access to a certain website the price of that textbook increases. They also require new editions to be made and then sold to students who have to buy them new. A study from a California state auditor found that “college deans, department chairs, and faculty members admitted revisions to textbooks are often minimal and not always warranted.” After talking with Patricia Montalbano, a professor in the English Department, she told me how she tries to save her students money by avoiding new editions.

“I try to always order used books, for example, this book is really an outdated version. If I order the new edition then students have to buy full price new books”

A philosophy book I bought used this year for $98.50. The same book is being sold on Amazon for $26.53.

According to ATTN:, in 2015 it was estimated that textbook prices had increased 812% from only a few decades ago. It was also found that 70% of students admitted to not buying textbooks that were very expensive. According to Montalbano, “I think there is a student in my class who has not bought the book; I have never seen her with it.”

Without a textbook to lean on in and out of class, will students be able to keep up with their heavy course load? According to Montalbano, “You are paying a lot for the class and you’re only getting 50 % out of it if you’re not reading any of the material… Students are missing out on crucial components of their education. They might think they are saving money but they are paying for a course and they are not getting everything out of it so it doesn’t save them anything.”

This book I bought for an English class which is $53.50 used. On Amazon, this same book is $23.98.

There are a few options out there for students who need to save money, however. There are online sites where students can buy textbooks cheaper than at their campus bookstores, such as Amazon or Chegg. Students can choose to buy older editions of textbooks which are usually cheaper. Another option would be to share a textbook with a friend or buy a textbook from another student who doesn’t need it anymore.

Recently, a new bill has been brought to Congress labeled “Affordable College Textbook Act.” According to ATTN:, this bill calls for the development of open textbooks. An open textbook is released to the public with an open license. That means anyone can access the textbook online, or download it, for free. Having a physical copy of the book would be $20. This bill would allow students to have access to the materials they need without going broke.

When, or if, will that bill be passed? Who knows. That is why in the meantime, students will need to be creative in their textbook buying process.

Montalbano stated, “The bookstore should be a service to students. You should be able to go and get all your books and it should be the same price you could get online so that students are not forced to string together their book order from all these places online.”

Comments are closed.