Most of the rants about the expense of college textbooks that appear at the beginning of every term focus on total costs. Priceonomics, a conservative think tank, took a look at individual majors and found the average class costs for some are four times the amount of the least expensive ones.
The site used data from the fall 2015 textbook list from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. It also assumed students purchased new versions of every required and optional textbook listed for the more than 750 courses on the list.
Economics students would pay $317 for books per class, topping the list. Language majors were second to economics at $268 per class, but sciences/social sciences filled the next nine slots. African-American studies books cost just $80 per class.
The most expensive book was a biochemistry text at $406 each. While physics textbooks cost an average of $158 per book, engineering books were $124 per title. English and literature books were the least expensive, with an average of $19 per text. The best books at buyback were music titles, which retained 68% of their value.
“In order to avoid these costs, many students may choose to buy used books, rent books, or pray the library has a book when they need it,” wrote Dan Kopf, author of the Priceonomics blog post. “There are also advocates pushing professors to choose open textbooks (textbooks for which there is no copyright). Though it may limit your long-term earning potential, our analysis suggests another way to lower your textbook cost is to choose a major in the humanities.”