College textbooks put students in a bind

Dewey Mullis

As high school juniors and seniors, we were suffocated with lectures and seminars, field trips and extra credit pertaining to visiting, researching and applying to the college of our dreams. We worked hard to get that acceptance letter. Now we are paying for it – literally.

The U.S. General Accountability Office reports college textbook prices have increased over 80 percent during the past 10 years. To put that into another framework, the cost of textbooks has increased over 800 percent during the past 35 years – a rate four times faster than the rate of inflation.

But now, students are finding cheap and easy ways around the financial fiasco: illegal downloads.

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on one-time-use textbooks, students are wisely finding a free version and continuing on their merry ways. If getting caught is a concern, bail from the local jail is probably a smaller fee than a few years worth of over-priced books.

What is this all about? The extraordinarily high cost of textbooks aids in highlighting the financial hole that is higher education. It is beginning to resemble a warehouse of the industrial era.

The education industry collects millions of individuals, places large groups of those people in small spaces, generalizes them via standardized test scores, financial ruin and repeated words of encouragement, and churns out a product that looks eerily identical to the one before and after it on the assembly line.

In reality that comparison may be a stretch, but what draws the model together is the desire for profit.

Appalachian State University, our wonderful home, provides the most affordable textbook rental system in the UNC system.

The ASU textbook rental program began in 1938, when the now-university was known as Appalachian State Teachers College, according to the rental program website. Students could rent books for a small fee of $5 per quarter.

Today, the program costs only $135, is already figured into tuition, and saves students hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over the course of their education.

More schools need to implement a rental program like the one here at Appalachian. Perhaps they should even find ways to go a step or two further.

The astronomical prices for required texts further squeezes the breath out of students and families in search of the most affordable yet worthwhile educational opportunities. It isn’t encouraging, nor is it a helpful start to years of debt.

We are always hearing about the importance of an education. It’s a marketing tool. Sure, education is inarguably valuable and a worthwhile experience. But when will it reach the tipping point of no longer being a feasible dream?

Mullis, a senior criminal justice major from Wallburg, is an opinion writer.