Textbook costs: a case of inflation hammering students

The cost of college textbooks has more than doubled since the end of 2001, even as prices for other books have retreated — illustrating that soaring tuition isn’t the only thing to blame for rising higher education bills.

University textbook prices surged 102 percent through July from December 2001, while the prices for recreational books declined 1.5 percent, according to Bloomberg’s Chart of the Day.


Over the same period, the consumer price index, measuring the cost of all goods and services, rose 32 percent.

‘‘We’re on an untenable trajectory — we keep on stretching the proverbial rubber band, and at some point it’s going to come back and hit us in the face and it’s going to hurt,’’ Watson Scott Swail, chief executive of the Educational Policy Institute, said of rising textbook costs that limit access to education. ‘‘It’s one of the reasons that students drop out, because it’s the unforeseen cost.’’

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Greater availability of digital options for textbooks, as well as a wider market for used books, may help ease the financial pressures, the Government Accountability Office said in a June report.

Schools and publishers are offering more information to students regarding textbook prices in order to comply with the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which mandated that they provide details such as the alternate textbook formats available and their prices, the GAO said.

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