THE SANTA CLARA
October 2, 2014
The young student faced a tough choice. Clutching the wrinkled twenties in her hand (the only money she would have for the month), the value of an education weighed heavily on her mind.
Yet, with a grumbling stomach and the average cost of a single college textbook at a whopping $175, according to last year’s Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act, the choice was clear.
A month’s worth of groceries tastes better than a pysch book, so she, like over half of her collegiate peers, would forgo the purchase of a ludicrously expensive book with the full knowledge that doing so could very well jeopardize her grade.
While the majority of Santa Clara students may never have to choose between a book and a meal, the high cost of textbooks leave many on campus beyond frustrated.
Our quarter system forces students to buy numerous books three times a year instead of just two. Paired with the fact that many textbooks at Santa Clara are specifically written for classes on our campus alone.
This increases the price of books while eliminating online purchase and selling options for students. Thus, the textbook crisis greatly affects Santa Clara students.
College Board notes that the average student spends roughly $1,200 dollars on textbooks. Santa Clara’s financial aid office puts the cost of books and supplies at an even more crippling $1,700. In this economy, or in any economy for that matter, that figure is preposterous.
The driving factor behind such high prices is the publishers of the texts themselves. Able to price books however they see fit, publishers have raised textbook prices by 82 percent since 2003 according to the aforementioned act.
Publishers also have the power to release new versions of textbooks every few years, an act that often renders the old textbooks less valuable than the paper they were printed on.
While such updates are certainly valuable for courses such as history and political science, as it is probably advisable to learn from a text that doesn’t list Woodrow Wilson as our current president, other courses may not need such frequent updates.
The Pythagorean theorem has held true since over five hundred years before Jesus. We shouldn’t need to drop a hundred dollars on a new math textbook every two years to confirm that.
There is little the school can do to combat the national average price of textbooks, but it can certainly step up to the plate for its own students.
Santa Clara’s personalized Math 8 textbook “What the Fork? Statistics” is currently going for $97.15 in the bookstore. The book is adapted from and all but identical to “Statistics Principles and Methods” and can be had for a mere $8.15 off Amazon.
If Santa Clara abandoned the unnecessarily personalized book, students could buy eight copies of the original book, pay shipping and handling and still have money left over.
What the fork, indeed, Santa Clara?
Many professors go out of their way to find the cheapest options for students and should be commended for their efforts. By alerting students about lower-priced texts, telling us not to purchase certain books and even skirting intellectual property laws by scanning pieces of text and putting them on Camino, it is clear that Santa Clara professors have our best interests in mind.
By padding the pockets of publishers, Santa Clara is not supporting its students. Tuition is almost $44,000 this year. With two more quarters of books left to purchase, we have paid enough.
With an endowment of $840 million, a figure higher than the GDP of 15 countries, Santa Clara would more than survive if it footed the bill for its students, or at least put more of an effort into providing cheaper alternatives.
When our university spends our money on a giant bronze statue of a horse, making us pay $1,700 for books cannot stand.
Thomas Curran-Levett is a junior political science major and the editor of the Opinion section.