The High and Rising Cost of College Textbooks Is Disproportionately Burdensome to African-American College Students

A study by the Government Accountability Office finds that the cost of college textbooks has risen at twice the rate of inflation over the past 20 years. Now the average college student is asked to spend about $900 per year on books.

The high cost of college textbooks often puts students in a dilemma: Do they spend the money for the text or try to get by borrowing a friend’s copy, using an old and perhaps outdated version, or trying to make do with copies of the textbook that are in the university library? A survey by the Virginia State Council of Higher Education found that 40 percent of all college students in the state did not purchase the required course materials.

The high cost of textbooks may be a special problem for most African-American students. Many black students receive financial aid for tuition and other fees but must use their own money for books. For black students who make up a disproportionate percentage of college students from low-income families, college textbooks, which can be $200 or more, are simply unaffordable.

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.