In the last ten years, textbook prices increased 63 percent and are growing faster than all other college costs, including tuition and fees. Textbook publishing is an oligopoly. Due to the lack of competition, large companies completely control the prices of textbooks and other mandatory services sold to students. Pearson, in particular, stands out a head above the rest. Pearson monopolized standardized testing in K–12 and college textbooks, and they are currently sinking their claws into homework.
It seems like something out of a weird, hyper-capitalist dystopian future, but that future is happening now. Pearson and similar publishers sell homework to students through digital learning systems, like Pearson’s MyLab and McGraw-Hill’s Connect. Essentially, these companies expect and require students to pay for access to necessary coursework and grade information. For the most part, this also includes an electronic copy of a textbook that students cannot keep or resell, which undermines the used textbook industry.
I understand why instructors might outsource some of their work to these systems from big publishers. However, it is not fair, in this author’s opinion, to ask students to pay for it. If a professor created assignments of their own and asked students to pay to access the assignment, how would the student body and university react? Why, then, are current PSU students paying publishing companies for required coursework? Why does PSU expect us to pay for it?
What exactly are students paying for when they pay tuition and course fees if it does not include homework and homework grades? Is this shift toward education à la carte acceptable?