The Daily Gamecock

University-edition books unfair deal for students

Higher education industry contributes to high debt levels

At the end of the summer, countless other upperclassmen and I scoured the Internet to find used and low-priced textbooks. This is a tradition we all begin in the spring of our freshman years, after we discover that the university bookstore’s philosophy is generally, “What money do you have left after rent and tuition? We’ll take that.”

There is only one thing standing in the way of purchasing textbooks online at a reasonable price: university editions.

For those who don’t know, for university-edition textbooks, the publisher changes a text’s content just enough so it is inconvenient to buy the generic version, and then prints the university’s logo on it. This ensures that students will buy the book through the bookstore, at the highest price it believes students will pay. They pass along some of these profits to the publisher and keep the rest for themselves.

But students shouldn’t worry — they can always borrow more money. This exploitation is emblematic of a deeper systematic problem.

Universities across America are competing to attract and satisfy students in all areas except price. Throughout high school, students are told over and over again that they shouldn’t be concerned with the price of a school.

Those who consider costs are characterized as cold pragmatists who don’t properly value education. Once students reach university, they do as they are told, and look not for the best value, but the best activities, sporting records, facilities and, occasionally, the quality of the education.
As each year of college passes, students sink deeper into debt. At some point, most students become aware of cost and try to save, some by buying used books. But as we see with university-edition textbooks, schools quickly find ways to cut off these cost-saving efforts.

The higher education industry is quite happy to see us use the full worth of our borrowing capacity to attend school. They don’t seem to be concerned that student loan debt delays us from borrowing to buy a home, start a business or pursue postgraduate degrees. Huge student-loan burdens drive new graduates into ill-fitting jobs, as they grow desperate to start paying them off.

Instead of innovating, potential entrepreneurs are forced to take the first offers they receive.
Relative to most students’ loan balances, university-edition textbooks are a minimal expense. But the practice is a symbol of how out of touch universities are to the student debt problem. Banning this practice won’t solve that problem, but it’s a good place to start.