Cost of College Textbooks Is 864 Percent Higher in 2014 Than in 1978

By Barbara Hollingsworth | April 28, 2014 | 5:08 PM EDT

University of Michigan Economics Professor Mark Perry (U-Mich).

( –College students in 2014 are paying 864 percent more for their textbooks than their parents did in 1978, according to University of Michigan/Flint economics professor Mark Perry.

This astronomical rise eclipsed the 588 percent increase in medical care, and is more than twice the inflated cost of new homes, which rose 375 percent during that same time period.

It is also more than three times higher than the 257 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) during the past 36 years, which Perry illustrated in an April 24th tweet.

Textbook prices have more than doubled since 2001, which is why two-thirds of college students (64 percent) say they don’t purchase the textbooks assigned for their courses, even though 94 percent of them admit that they are risking a lower grade by not buying them.

Instead, students borrow textbooks from friends, rent the tomes they need, or try to find a copy in the library or online.

Books and other supplies comprise undergraduates’ third highest expenditure, behind tuition and room and board, according to the College Board, which estimates that the average student spends $1,200 on textbooks each year.


(College Board)


Last June, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report after interviewing “eight publishers representing over 85 percent of new U.S. higher education textbook sales” during a audit of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) between April 2012 and June 2013.

HEOA requires that colleges and universities disclose textbook information to students, and GAO found that 81 percent provided such information online so that students could comparison shop.

However, the GAO also pointed out that students comprise a captive market, stating that “the textbook market is different from other commodity markets; although students are the end consumers, faculty are responsible for selecting which textbooks students will need, thereby limiting students' ability to allay costs.”