The steep price of education

Anne-Elisabeth Cavarec, Staff Writer

Be ready to shell out $264.50 for the new edition of your business communication textbook required for class — and know that picking up a copy of “Nutrition for Health and Health Care” will set you back $200 in no time.

It’s absurd. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that the price of college textbooks rose 82 percent from 2002 to 2013.

Unfair prices jeopardize students’ access to education. Sixty-five percent of students choose not to buy at least one textbook per year based on price alone, according to the U.S. Public InterestResearch Groups’ 2014 report “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market.”

A fair figure would satisfy both the publishers’ demands and the students’ budget, while keeping other costly student expenses in mind. Some students even spend more money on textbooks than on tuition.

As college students, textbooks are not a product we can decide to buy or not because we simply cannot study without them. This leads to inequalities between students who have the means to buy them and those who don’t.

There is an alternative solution with precedence: Santa Rosa Junior College economics instructors mobilized to negotiate the price of their textbook by customizing it according to students needs. The new custom version costs $162.50 instead of the $299.75 original.

Another way to reduce textbook prices is to adopt the open-access textbook system already in place at several universities, which allows students to use the textbook online.

Antonella Andrade, textbook coordinator at the SRJC Bookstore, said, “We are doing our best to be competitive and provide better services than online companies.” I believe her intentions, but prices are still repulsive.

Must the general evolution of the book industry move toward online purchases? Do e-books lead to the disappearance of bookstores? Websites certainly offer more affordable prices, but also dehumanize the industry by forgoing direct advice from booksellers.

Equal access to education is integral to creating a fair society. Students, teachers and bookstore staff should show solidarity against publishers’ prices.