Don't Forget about Textbooks When Calculating Student Debt

College textbooks are a racket. Financial aid infrequently covers their cost. A significant percentage of students are forced to use credit cards to purchase them. This is one of the unseen contributors to student debt.

The college textbook industry is a racket designed to con students out of their money. There's already been plenty written about why it's a scam, though not as much about the hidden consequences of the status quo. Here's something notable: Overpriced textbooks are an under-the-radar contributor to the student debt crisis.


In 2012, the average graduating college senior with student loans held just under $30,000 in debt. That figure doesn't include course materials not covered by financial aid. A 2014 U.S. Public Interest Research Group study found that the average American college student spends $1,200 per year on books and supplies.

A separate survey conducted in 2015 by education tech company Rafter revealed that 38 percent of students used credit cards as their primary payment method for textbooks and other required items. That means the constant nickel-and-diming that comes with acquiring ancillary materials can be especially hard on students who struggle to make ends meet. 

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