Getting Schooled on the Cost of College Textbooks
In the category of things that didn't make it into the paper but are sitting around in my head....A couple of weeks ago, I caught Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin--the Illinois Democrat-- speaking at a Consumer Federation of America conference.
And the man was on fire.
The subject? College textbooks.
"It's a racket!" Durbin declared, referring to the high cost of college textbooks and the fact that students typically receive a pittance when they try to resell those textbooks back to university bookstores, which often have a cozy financial relationship with the schools.
Well, Congress is on the case. Or not, as the case may be.
The House last Thursday passed higher education legislation that included language Durbin came up with requiring publishers to disclose the cost of textbooks when they sell them to teachers and keeps publishers from bundling books and supplemental materials, which ups the cost for students.
The Senate passed its version of the same legislation already but without the textbook provision.
That means students and their parents will have to stay tuned to find out if that provision survives conference committee.
In the meantime, several states have also decided to take a whack at this, including Maryland.
I guess what is shocking to most everyone is how this market failure can persist in the age of Amazon, Half.com, and even craigslist for goodness sake. The short version is the people who pay for the books aren't the ones who are choosing them. You can read the longer version here.
Students and parents out there, talk to me. How much should I be setting aside for our kid's textbook slush fund? Will there even be textbooks by then? Or will I be sending her off to school with a Kindle and carpal tunnel?
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