Textbook troubles

1 minute read

A link from a reader: “‘Required reading’: As textbook prices soar, students try to cope”.

The College Board found that the average student at a four-year public college spends $1,200 on books and supplies, or nearly $1,250 if they go to a private school. On the public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute, where he is a fellow, University of Michigan-Flint economics professor Mark J. Perry highlighted a chart showing an 812 percent increase in the cost of college textbooks since 1978, a jump even higher than the percentage growth in the cost of health care.
Students are, in essence, a captive market, said Ethan Senack, higher education associate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The publishing industry is dominated by five companies that dominate upwards of 85 percent of the market.

I’m building the groundwork for a project that will do something about this, at least in the area of biological anthropology. I’ve been following stories like this for years. Developing the MOOC, I have the tremendous opportunity to make connections with people all over the world. Most of the people signed up are nowhere near the traditional U.S. college textbook market (MOOC international enrollment numbers). I face a problem that can’t be solved by textbooks today, and limited-use “rental” text that will go away at the end of the course is not a valid solution.

So I’m doing something about it. The idea has many moving parts, but at its base is the need to supply quality educational content cheaply, with a way to get articles freely outside the usual college system. I’m going to be calling for help, so keep watching this space.