By Andrew Garofolo
Last semester at my school, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, students protested the privatization of the campus bookstore through rallies and social media uproar. Such backlash seemed due to fear of change—change for the workers at the store and change for the Chapel Hill community.
For many protestors, the bookstore represented a longstanding campus staple that was being undermined by shortsighted university officials. But what many of my classmates failed to understand is that privatization—of bookstores and other non-academic campus services—will play in their favor. It especially will help the students most burdened with the high costs of university education.
While some students view the first day of classes as an exciting start to the semester, for me and many others it’s a time of dread, for we must find ways to pay for the various books assigned in each course. I always pray that I have to buy only one or two books from the student store, and that the store has cheap used copies or viable alternative editions, but that seems to never be the case.
That’s due in large part to the college textbook market, which is a racket dominated by just five publishers with few incentives to change. For four years, I and my fellow classmates are “captive” customers; when a professor assigns a book, we usually have no choice but to make the purchase.
As a result of this flawed system, textbook prices have risen more than 800 percent over the last 30 years. The Huffington Post estimates that students today dole out around $655 per semester just on textbooks. Unfortunately, small operations such as my campus store don’t have the bargaining power or economies of scale to facilitate lower prices. Barnes & Noble, however, does have that ability. CONTINUE READING HERE