Profiting from the Brain Drain

Erik Jorgensen, Staff Writer

When I got laid off before Christmas a couple years ago, I thought it was a great opportunity to go back to school. Because I had a bad year, my finances qualified me for the BOG tuition waiver. I was elated – I could go to school for free!

And then I tried to buy textbooks. One class alone required more than $200 in textbooks. Reluctantly, I dropped out – the cost of my textbooks prohibited me from going to school for free.

During another semester, I took a computer graphics class to expand my job skills. The textbook, written by the instructor, was a bargain at $35, or so I thought – until I took the plastic spiral-bound photocopies home and read them. Each page had at least one full-screen shot of the program’s control panel – sometimes just to show the mouse pointing at different menus on the top. If you removed all the pictures, there would only be about five or six pages of text.

I understand teachers don’t make much money, and writing textbooks is a great way to supplement their meager income, but that textbook was a rip-off. It showed contempt for the students who had to buy it. The bookstore has to mark up the cost to make a profit and pay their employees, and whoever put the “books” together had to make a living as well. So in all fairness, the teacher was probably only making a dollar or two per book. But that specific book was useless – and overpriced.

In fact, don’t get me started on “obsolete” textbooks. After taking my compulsory Finite Math class, the bookstore refused to buy back my discontinued textbooks, which cost more than $150 used. I was told they use a new edition next semester. Were there some new discoveries in math that rendered the old book useless? Are there technological breakthroughs in calculating compound interest? Did the popularity of Texas Hold’em alter the odds of card combinations? Or is it just another excuse to profit off of starving students?

This country’s record-profits-every-quarter mentality is draining our country of its greatest national resource: brainpower.