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Paladin of Ice

The state of higher education in the United States

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There were semesters where I paid more for books than I did for tuition, and that was a criminal justice degree. Some classes required 3 books per class (English, history, government, are some examples). Those books were well over $100 each.

See, the most expensive book I've had to buy (so far) is a £30 anthology of poems (I could kill a horse with this book). Other than that, everything has been a standard £5 - £15 per book, granted they were mostly just novels, with a few reasonably priced critical theory etc books thrown in.

I feel for you, man. If I had to pay $100 for each book I got I'd be dead of starvation. And in debt.

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See, the most expensive book I've had to buy (so far) is a £30 anthology of poems (I could kill a horse with this book). Other than that, everything has been a standard £5 - £15 per book, granted they were mostly just novels, with a few reasonably priced critical theory etc books thrown in.

I feel for you, man. If I had to pay $100 for each book I got I'd be dead of starvation. And in debt.

This was mostly my experience while pursuing my Lit degree, although my Shakespeare anthology (which for the life of me I cannot remember which one we used), was fairly pricey, coming in at around $80 used, iirc.

Now, my accounting/Econ/calculus books? They were extremely pricey indeed, usually running over $100 per book, and you'd rarely be able to sell them back at the end of the semester. Hell, even my philosophy texts were usually fairly expensive compared to my Lit texts.

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See, the most expensive book I've had to buy (so far) is a £30 anthology of poems (I could kill a horse with this book). Other than that, everything has been a standard £5 - £15 per book, granted they were mostly just novels, with a few reasonably priced critical theory etc books thrown in.

I feel for you, man. If I had to pay $100 for each book I got I'd be dead of starvation. And in debt.

Science textbooks are the priciest.

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Science textbooks are the priciest.

Yeah, my AI book was almost $300 and my psychology book was nearly $200.

And the amount I got back when I tried to sell them back? $6 a piece because they weren't using the books the next semester.

I still have both of those books to this day.

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I stopped buying textbooks, and started just sharing with classmates after I started finishing the semester with books still sealed in their wrapper.

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You actually need books to pass your exam? I have many courses where we just read papers, and virtually all other information you need is on the (very extensive) slides.


On the other hand, practically all the books I've bought I actually think were worth the money, especially my applied microeconometrics by Cameron and Trivedi, it's sort of become my bible.


The most expensive one was about 80 euro though I think, and I buy about 5-6 per year maximum.

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Did a 4-year BBA and only bought one book (rookie mistake) for ~€70, copied and shared most others with friends, didn't buy some books at all. Some courses didn't have textbooks, or if they did, they weren't really needed. We did case studies, which the professors would print out for us. We had detailed syllabi, which cost <€10 each, we had detailed presentations that were uploaded to our university page and available digitally any time. Some professors would even lend us their textbooks for us to copy, because they knew overpriced they are - also we often used less-than-a-whole book, so buying it and using 1/3 was absurd.



I actually didn't have a single textbook during my exchange semester in Germany - all the professors had prepared detailed presentations for every part of the course. They would recommend literature if somebody wanted to delve deeper, but everything needed for the exam was covered in the lectures and workshops and available for free digitally.


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I might have skimmed, but I believe the Economist mentioned that the grade average at Harvard was an A- in 2013. Not perhaps pertinent to the ongoing discussion, but relevant to the thread title I would think.


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Spent about £100 in total, but most of them were general textbooks, stuff like terminology and IEE wiring regulations, others were just more for interest. Wasn't a big requirement to own books.


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I might have skimmed, but I believe the Economist mentioned that the grade average at Harvard was an A- in 2013. Not perhaps pertinent to the ongoing discussion, but relevant to the thread title I would think.

Harvard (and other ivy league schools) is known to have grade inflation issues. Basically, it's almost impossible to get bad grades if you get into the school.

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Harvard (and other ivy league schools) is known to have grade inflation issues. Basically, it's almost impossible to get bad grades if you get into the school.

Grade inflation is certainly not just a problem at "Ivy League" colleges:

http://www.gradeinflation.com/

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I didn't have books after my sophomore year at college, except for one in Basic Telecommunications, which covered much more ground than we needed.


That one cost ~40€ and was the most expensive one we needed.


The rest of our books were around 10€, with few going as high as 15-20€.


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With that said, all of the top universities in the US except maybe two (Berkeley and Penn?) are private, though very good public universities (as in, top-50 nationally) exist.

Guess it just depends on the rankings and some are better than others(US News is a joke).

A good many public schools compare favorably however. Multiple UC schools, University of Washington and University of Michigan all come to mind.

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My wife is finishing up a couple classes and starting nursing school next year. She is taking two classes this semester, the cost of books was $465. One of those books was 200 pages of looseleaf paper, like the campus store just printed off a copy of the text. They didn't come in a binder or prepared in any way at all, they just printed it off and put it in plastic wrap. $285.

This is one bubble I can't wait to burst.

Hi awesome possum,

Just a few weeks ago a neighbor was telling me that you can now rent textbooks through Amazon or B&N. You can rent by the chapter and even by the page if you want.

Textbook writing is a big cash cow for professors. IMO there shouldn't even be paper textbooks these days.

I have a 17 year old senior and as much as she wants to go away to school, it's going to be much cheaper to live at home. I'm trying to talk her into community college for 2 years but she's resisting. There's athletic scholarship on the line, too. Even with that and financial aid, she's still looking at around $20K for 4 years. Without it we're talking $80K.

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Sadly, there are actually two types of teachers you might be thinking of. The first is grad student teaching assistants. In theory, these do not actually teach classes -- they are supposed to be helping a professor do it. In practice... well, some professors don't like to teach and the grad students wind up doing the work. The second are adjunct professors who are not actually professors in the sense people usually think of the word, but in fact just people hired to teach a course with no further commitment on part of the university. Both are paid slave wages, though the grad students at least get compensated in tuition. They're not necessarily second-rate teachers though; it's surprising how little having a great deal of extra knowledge (as full professors generally do) correlates with being able to get a small piece of that knowledge across to somebody who doesn't know it.As to the costs, it's a combination of the free market and the government interacting in the worst possible way. The government makes it so that it is easy to get student loans without having any idea of how one would pay them off and these same loans are generally not dischargeable in bankruptcy like practically all other loans in the US. Add the fact that the people getting these loans are at the midpoint between childhood and adulthood and... well, this is basically the dream of lending agencies come true. Given all this money, colleges then compete for students in expensive and completely unnecessary ways -- it's free market competition all right, just in a very unnatural set of circumstances.The bureaucracy and administrative bloat is another combination of the government and the market acting in concert. On the one hand, the government mandates compliance with a long list of regulations as a condition for federal aid qualification (without which it is basically impossible to do research). On the other hand, colleges again compete to provide a variety of student services. Both are well and good... but somebody has to pay for them.

Hi Altherion,

It depends on where you go and what class it is. I went to a big research school (Pitt)and I had several classes where you saw the professor maybe once through the semester. The grad students and doctoral students taught the classes. PhD's aren't there to teach. They're there to bring in grant money.

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Textbooks are a "cash cow" for the tiny percentage of college professors who manage to get one published. The great majority of us have never written a textbook and don't have the time and/or ability to do so.



I teach at a "non-selective" university where very few of the students come from wealthy or even upper middle class families. Yet very few of my students choose to buy e-versions of textbooks. They still seem to prefer paper despite the expense.


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Textbooks are a "cash cow" for the tiny percentage of college professors who manage to get one published. The great majority of us have never written a textbook and don't have the time and/or ability to do so.

I teach at a "non-selective" university where very few of the students come from wealthy or even upper middle class families. Yet very few of my students choose to buy e-versions of textbooks. They still seem to prefer paper despite the expense.

Paper is easier to use in every way except for:

- searching the contents

- carrying the damn things around

That said, my experience is that most people these days just hit up a torrent site or something and download a scanned version of all their textbooks (or the ones they can).

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Textbooks are a "cash cow" for the tiny percentage of college professors who manage to get one published. The great majority of us have never written a textbook and don't have the time and/or ability to do so.

I teach at a "non-selective" university where very few of the students come from wealthy or even upper middle class families. Yet very few of my students choose to buy e-versions of textbooks. They still seem to prefer paper despite the expense.

What I hated was that if they changed one word they'd issue a new edition. And trying to sell them back was a ripoff too.

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What I hated was that if they changed one word they'd issue a new edition. And trying to sell them back was a ripoff too.

Frequent edition changes are more the fault of publishers than authors.

However, it's also the case that in the sciences and social sciences, some students themselves complain if the copyright on the text is more than five years old. They want the books to include recent research in their field.

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