“This is the one issue that students universally care about,” she said, adding that MaryPIRG has shared survey results with UMD’s administrators showing many students go without required books because they’re too pricey. “Book prices should never be a barrier to knowledge.”
Textbook prices have risen by about four times the rate of inflation since 2000, according to federal statistics. Seven in 10 student respondents to a recent Student PIRG survey said they hadn’t purchased at least one assigned textbook due to high costs. Of those students, eight in 10 said their grades would suffer without the necessary books.
Jimel Scott, a junior at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus, said the rising cost of books has diluted some classmates’ higher education as they try to get by each course without books listed on professors’ syllabi.
“They just fake it and hope they make it,” said Scott, who spoke at the Textbook Rebellion rally, accompanied by the group’s costumed mascots, the mogul Mr. $200 Textbook and his foil, Textbook Rebel. “But they know, and I know–you can’t do your best in class without the right resources. … It’s gotten to the point where you actually dread going into the bookstore every semester.”
Used books available on low-cost websites like BookRenter and Chegg, Scott said, aren’t always useful. When professors require a brand new edition of the course’s textbook, a student can’t use last year’s version, which might cost a tenth of the newest iteration.
“With every new [book] edition, publishing companies win and students lose,” she said. “That’s not right.”
In the Student PIRG survey tallying the percentage of students who go without textbooks, many respondents said they often can’t recuperate any of the high costs of their books by selling the book back at the end of the semester.