Tuition and book costs continue to rise

Students pay more money for classes and supplies

“I wasted like $5,000 on school in one year.”

That’s the cost Zayra Rodriguez, an American River College nursing major, has to pay for her schooling.

Unit prices for California community colleges hit an unprecedented high in 2011, at $36, before rising another $10 last year. The cost for a full time student, considered 12 units or more, at ARC is now $552 or more, not including books, class supplies, transportation, or even what they’ll eat or where they’ll live for the semester.

The cost of community college is tied to the state budget, and, in general, the state economy. Prior to 1984, there was no unit fee. Starting with the fall semester of 1984, a $5 fee per unit was introduced, which was capped at $50 per semester. A paper on San Diego Miramar’s college attributes this change to the passing of Proposition 13 in 1978 and the economic recession of the early ‘80s.

Since then, the cost per unit has fluctuated, ultimately ending at our current cost of $46. It went down $6 in 2006, from $26 to $20, and stayed there for three years before rising again. This constitutes an 820% increase in cost since 1984.

The cost of course related materials are no help either. According to, a community college student can expect to pay $1,675 just on books and course supplies. A CSU’s attendant course materials cost averages at $1,666, while a UC’s averages to $1,550.

The Consumer Price Index shows that average textbook price in areas with a population of 50,000 to 1,500,000 has risen 115% since 1977. Two generations ago, the average textbook cost $57.90. Now, the average cost of a single textbook is $721.92. This includes everything from novels and classics for humanities classes to high-level math and science books that are lugged around the illuminated halls of higher learning one finds in universities. found an 812% change in textbook costs since 1978 nationwide.

Some would expect that this textbook money goes to paying the writers. The National Association of College Stores states that an average of $0.216 of every textbook dollar goes to the bookstore. $0.01 goes to shipping for heavy books, $0.774 cents goes to the publisher, $0.154 goes to marketing, $0.114 goes to authors, and $0.322 goes to the publishing house for overhead, including employee salaries.