Tag Archives: The Economist

Why textbooks cost so much

19 Aug

As the cost of a college education rises, everyone is looking at ways to reduce cost so that more students are not priced out of a college education. Allen Grove has a good article at About.Com which gives some reasons for Why College Books Cost So Much? http://collegeapps.about.com/od/payingforcollege/f/college-books-cost.htm The Economist wrote in the article, Why textbooks cost so much:

STUDENTS can learn a lot about economics when they buy Greg Mankiw’s “Principles of Economics”—even if they don’t read it. Like many popular textbooks, it is horribly expensive: $292.17 on Amazon. Indeed, the nominal price of textbooks has risen more than fifteenfold since 1970, three times the rate of inflation (see chart).
Like doctors prescribing drugs, professors assigning textbooks do not pay for the products themselves, so they have little incentive to pick cheap ones. Some assign books they have written themselves…
But hope is not lost for poor scholars. Foreign editions are easy to find online and often cheaper—sometimes by over 90%. Publishers can be litigious about this, but in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that Americans have the right to buy and resell copyrighted material obtained legally. Many university bookstores now let students rent books and return them. Publishers have begun to offer digital textbooks, which are cheaper but can’t be resold…. http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21612200-its-economics-101-why-textbooks-cost-so-much?fsrc=email_to_a_friend

There are ways to cut down the cost associated with college text books. If possible, one can buy used texts. Another way to cut costs is to rent texts. Rhiana Jones’ article Top Three Online Sites to Rent College Texts At a Discount https://suite.io/rhiana-jones/3v8p2sv compares three text rental sites. Paul Michael has some tips for going online to find discounted texts at How to Find the Cheapest College Textbooks http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-find-the-cheapest-college-textbooks

The Affordable College Textbook Act has been kicking around Congress for a few years. SPARC summarizes the provisions:

The Affordable College Textbook Act seeks to expand the use of open textbooks on college campuses, providing affordable alternatives to traditional textbooks and keeping prices lower. The bill:
• Creates a grant program to support pilot programs at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for those programs that will achieve the highest savings for students.
• Ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using program funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public.
• Requires entities who receive funds to complete a report on the effectiveness of the program in achieving savings for students.
• Improves existing requirements for publishers to make all textbooks and other educational materials available for sale individually rather than as a bundle.
• Requires the Government Accountability Office to provide an updated report on the price trends of college textbooks to Congress by 2017.
Supporters: SPARC, U.S. PIRG, National Association of College Stores, National Association of Graduate and Professional Students, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, American Association of Community Colleges, Association of Community College Trustees, OUR TIME, Creative Commons, OpenCourseWare Consortium. – See more at: http://www.sparc.arl.org/advocacy/national/act#sthash.hdtGL4DP.dpuf http://www.sparc.arl.org/advocacy/national/act

Passage of the act might help many, but its passage is not assured.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy wrote in the Money Watch article, College Textbooks: 7 Ways to Save Money:

Before you shop for college textbooks, here are my seven tips to find the cheapest textbooks around:
1. Comparison shop.
You can use BIGWORDS.com and Campusbooks.com, which are textbook aggregators, that can direct you to college textbook sellers are offering the lowest prices. BIGWORDS, for instance, aggregates all the web’s options on any book, whether new, used or rentals. Two popular places for textbooks are Half.com and Amazon.
2. Use old editions.
You will often be able to pick up some old editions of textbooks super cheap and sometimes for pennies on the dollar. The content in the 5th edition of a chemistry book versus the 7th edition could be inconsequential. Ask your professors if you aren’t sure about buying an old textbook.
3. Consider renting textbooks.
The big gorilla in the textbook rental market is Chegg. Other competitors include BookRenter.com and CampusBookRental.com. ValoreBooks offers free shipping for rentals over $20. Some campus bookstores are also renting textbooks to students.
Renting won’t always be cheaper than buying a used copy — particularly if you can resell the college book, but it can be a godsend if you’re strapped for cash. Check prices.
4. Look for coupons.
Before you buy textbooks online, see if you can find a promotional coupon. Check out CouponWinner.com, PromoCodes.com and PromotionalCodes.com.
5. Share a book.
My daughter, who is a college senior, has done this in the past. She’s shared textbooks with one or two of her friends and saved big bucks.
6. Try international editions of books.
According to Textbooksrus.com, it’s possible to save 75% on international editions of textbooks.
7. Look for books before school starts.
According to a new federal law, textbook publishers must provide students with the list of required textbooks during registration. You’ll have more options if you don’t wait until you arrive at school to order. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/college-textbooks-7-ways-to-save-money/

The cost of textbooks is just one of the costs associated with going to college. See, Tuition is only the beginning of college costs https://drwilda.com/2013/08/15/tuition-is-only-the-beginning-of-college-costs/


Students Get Savvier About Textbook Buying

For Many Students, Print Is Still King

Affordable College Textbook Act Would Help Students, But Publishers Aren’t Hearing It http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2014/03/affordable_college_textbook_ac.php


Are open-source textbooks becoming a viable alternative to traditional texts?

Could ‘open source’ textbooks be cheaper than traditional textbooks?

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‘Dual education’ is coming to America

3 Jun

The Economist story Ein neuer Deal? Germany’s vaunted dual-education system is its latest export hit describes Germany’s dual education system:

URSULA VON DER LEYEN, Germany’s labour minister, likes to point out that the two European Union countries with the lowest unemployment, especially among the young, have dual-education systems: Austria and Germany. Like Switzerland, they have a tradition of combining apprenticeships with formal schooling for the young “so that education is always tied to demand,” she says. When youths graduate, they often have jobs to walk into.

With youth unemployment in Germany and Austria below 8% against 56% in Spain and 38% in Italy, Mrs von der Leyen has won Europe’s attention. Germany recently signed memoranda with Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain to help set up vocational-education systems. Mrs von der Leyen discussed the topic in visits to Madrid in May and to Paris this week. There is even talk of a “new deal” for Europe, including bringing youths from crisis-hit countries to work in Germany and making more loans.

Germany is best known in euro-zone countries for its macroeconomic prescriptions of austerity and structural reform. So it helps politically that it should now be seen assisting people in those countries into jobs. But does its dual-education system deserve so much credit, and should other countries adopt it?

Although based on older traditions, it formally dates from 1969. Youths not interested in, or qualified for, university sign up for a programme in which they work three or four days a week for a firm that pays them and teaches relevant skills. The rest of the time they spend in school, completing mostly specialised courses. Chambers of commerce and industry associations make sure that the work and the teaching are matched. After three years or so, trainees are certified and, if they make a good impression, may stay as full-time workers.

About two in three young Germans go through this system and into about 350 careers. Some end up in blue-collar jobs, others in sales and marketing, shipping and agriculture, or pharmacology and accounting. The practical nature of the education is an advantage, as is the mutual screening between potential employers and employees during training.

Yet the system existed in the 1990s, when Germany was the “sick man of Europe” and had high unemployment. German success today surely owes more to its labour-market and welfare reforms of a decade ago and to unions’ wage restraint. In an ageing and shrinking population, demography also helps, as fewer German graduates choose among more open jobs.

Ludger Wössmann, an economist at the Ifo Institute in Munich, suggests that vocational education can have bad side effects. In his research, countries that combined school and work-based education (Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland) did much better at getting young people into jobs. But early training can turn into a disadvantage by the age of 50. It appears that skills learnt in vocational training “become obsolete at a faster rate.” Low youth unemployment today may thus come at the cost of higher old-age unemployment tomorrow.

Related topics

The Career Technical Education Foundation (CTEF) has a good synopsis of “dual education.”

In Dual System of Education, CTEF explains:

What is the dual system of education supported by industry for career academies with an internship/apprenticeship model?  Two partners share the responsibility for education and training.  The Career Academy assumes the responsibility for teaching the required curriculum content including theory and practical application.  Industry provides the career academy financial support and the training necessary to familiarize the trainee with the technological and organizational aspects of the work processes within the company.

Advantages of the Dual System for the Industry partner:

  • Secures the skilled labor needed

  • Reduces the costs to train for positions within the company

  • Increases motivation and loyalty to the company

  • Trainee receives job specific qualifications

  • Productive performance of trainee

Advantages of the Dual System for the Student:

  • Recognized Industry Certification

  • Increased prospects for employment upon completion

  • Theory and practical application of curriculum

  • Certain degree of independence through an “earn while you learn” program

Financing of the Dual System of Education and Training

  • Industry partners who provide training contribute the largest share

  • Perkins and other District funding as available from State and Federal Agencies Grants

  • Dual System of Education and Training provides the opportunity for the successful Career Academy Graduate to:

    • Earn Industry Certification and/or

    • Earn college credit upon successful completion of each course while attending the Career Academy

    • Apply to the University of their choice

    • Earn Industry Certification

    • Enter gainful employment either with their own training company or another company

    • Continue education process by:

      • Working with the training company 3.5 days/week

      • Attending University or Continuing Education facility 1.5 days/week with company assistance where needed until coursework completed.

To read more please visit the Executive Summary Page


As with any education system, there are advantages and disadvantages.

The 2006 article, Dual system is singular success which was published in Times Higher Education reports:

For all its success, the policy is not without its problems. As in Britain, universities were at first loath to recognise an alternative form of higher education. They have been reluctant to give adequate recognition to AMK graduates on university masters programmes.

Employers are anxious about an oversupply of graduates, and they and others claim that some aspects of technical and vocational education are neglected. The relationship with the municipalities and regions is not always smooth, and there is a high dropout rate.

Maintaining a dual system in Finland has been made more difficult by the success of the policy and of the Bologna Process. When AMKs were established, they were the only institutions that offered bachelors degrees; since Bologna, most Finnish universities do. AMKs now also offer masters programmes, although they are mostly part-time schemes for mature students. But some universities are also entering this market. The dual system is thus challenged by “vocational drift”. The challenge for the polytechnics – and for the Government – is to maintain the distinction between the broad aims of the two sectors while recognising that a difference of purpose does not necessarily imply a difference of status. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/206872.article

The United States is also looking a different education formats.

Moi wrote in The International Baccalaureate program and vocational students:

There is an “arms race” going on in American Education. More people are asking whether college is the right choice for many. The U.S. has de-emphasized high quality vocational and technical training in the rush to increase the number of students who proceed to college in pursuit of a B.A. Often a graduate degree  follows. The Harvard paper, Pathways to Prosperity argues for more high quality vocational and technical opportunities:

The implication of this work is that a focus on college readiness alone does not equip young people with all of

the skills and abilities they will need in the workplace, or to successfully complete the transition from adolescence

to adulthood. This was highlighted in a 2008 report published by Child Trends, which compared research on the competencies required for college readiness, workplace readiness and healthy youth development. The report found significant overlaps. High personal expectations, self-management, critical thinking, and academic achievement are viewed as highly important for success in all three areas. But the report also uncovered some striking differences. For instance: while career planning, previous work experience, decision making, listening skills, integrity, and creativity are all considered vital in the workplace, they hardly figure in college readiness.http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news_events/features/2011/Pathways_to_Prosperity_Feb2011.pdf

There is a reluctance to promote vocational opportunities in the U.S. because the is a fear of tracking individuals into vocational training and denying certain groups access to a college education. The comprise could be a combination of both quality technical training with a solid academic foundation. Individuals may have a series of careers over the course of a career and a solid foundation which provides a degree of flexibility is desired for survival in the future. See, Why go to college? https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/why-go-to-college/

Michael Alison Chandler is reporting in the Washington Post story, New college-prep IB program could be offered to technical students about giving vocational students the opportunity to participate in the International Baccalaureate program. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/new-college-prep-ib-program-could-be-offered-to-technical-students/2011/11/21/gIQAareS6N_story.html


There shouldn’t be a one size fits all in education and parents should be honest about what education options will work for a particular child. Even children from the same family may find that different education options will work for each child.


Vocational Education Myths and Realities


Vocational Education in the United States, The Early 1990s


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