What Does Your Major Cost in the College Bookstore?

Market Trends

What Does Your Major Cost in the College Bookstore?

Aug 31, 2015

TEXTBOOK EXPENSES: When it comes to undergraduate majors, some reading lists cost more than others. So says conservative think tank Priceonomics, which surveyed the cost of nearly 5,000 textbooks for more than 750 courses offered at the University of Virginia this term. Economics majors at UVA can expect to spend an average $317 on textbooks alone. The class that will set you back the least? African American studies, totaling $80 for the semester's worth of books.

On the other end of the spectrum: Biochem, whose $406 textbook is the most expensive one in the university's bookstore. And if that's not enough to chase students into Modern Poetry, get this: math and science books have a paltry resale value. Accounting classes have an especially bad balance sheet, with used texts selling for 10% of the original price. But hang on to those Music titles; used volumes retain 68% of their value.

Soaring textbook prices are nothing new; they've risen more than 800% since 1978. The College Board estimates that undergraduates already spend about $1200 on books yearly, a hurdle that many students find increasingly difficult to clear. Buying and renting used books and stalking the library provide short-term fixes. Long-term solutions are another discussion entirely.

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