The College Textbook Bubble


Mark Perry has a chart showing yet another facet of the higher education bubble resulting endless government subsidies for college loans, etc. The growth in the cost of textbooks has outpaced not just inflation but other areas of rapid cost growth such as medical care:


The inflation of textbook prices is bad enough on its own, but it’s all the more stomach-churning when you consider the lengths colleges go to force students to pay those prices instead of taking advantage of cheaper alternatives. Many universities, for instance, require that students only use the versions of textbooks found in the university bookstore. Minor revisions are made to textbooks every year which make it difficult for used books to be re-sold at discount prices in the private market.

One almost gets the idea that universities see students not as young minds to be trained and shaped for their careers but rather as vehicles for lots and lots of money, including government-backed student loans, to be brought into the university’s campuses.

That’s why so many universities seem to put such an emphasis on growing enrollment. When the goal is harvesting all that government-backed student loan money, quantity counts more than quality.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • awfulorv

    To think, all these textbooks could be contained in an economical, easy to carry, Kindle like device. Your state should not give another dime to higher education until they incorporate common sense, up to date, money saving practices for their students, into their curriculum. The day of the tenured, leather patched Winos, teaching Communist flavored civil disobedience, four hours per week, and using their positions for bi- sexual purposes, as those with power always do, has passed, or should have, long ago.

    • kevindf

      The textbook scammers are frightened to death about the prospect of e-textbooks. They will fight tooth and nail to maintain their monopoly.

  • mikemc1970

    I think this is proportional to the increase in other college costs, like tuition. Whenever a progressive touches anything, they automatically turn it into crap and will never admit they screwed it up even more.

  • fredlave

    Faculty who write textbooks get a percentage of the price and therefore have an incentive to issue frequent, if sometimes minor, revisions to limit the use of used copies.

  • $37752774

    This doesn’t surprise me. Everything is increasing and obviously textbooks seem to be soaring. I guess that is why I turned to renting used textbooks from College Book Renter. While it still costs money, it isn’t half as bad as having to buy a $350 book for one class.