WASHINGTON — The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and a coalition of student and consumer advocates submitted a series of letters to the Department of Justice (DOJ) today opposing the proposed merger of textbook publishers Cengage and McGraw Hill. The companies are two of the largest college textbook publishers in the country.
The consumer and antitrust groups and student leaders — representing more than 40 institutions — agreed that the merger would result in an extremely consolidated market and increase textbook costs. Students from Kansas, North Carolina, and Iowa also sent letters to the DOJ based on their own experiences with the broken textbook market.
“College is already difficult to afford. Students shouldn’t also be slapped with the additional and unnecessary costs of rising textbook prices,” said Kaitlyn Vitez, the Make Higher Education Affordable Campaign Director for U.S. PIRG. “If it goes through, this merger would further entrench the problems that have led to skyrocketing costs, and give students fewer options to shop for more affordable books.”
When Cengage and McGraw Hill announced the merger, the companies claimed it would promote affordability by increasing the use of access codes — where students pay to submit homework online, and automatically bill students for materials. However, due to the lack of other options, the combined company would be able to effectively lock students into paying to submit homework, and eliminate the used book market.
“To maintain their edge in an era of razor-thin profit margins, textbook publishers are pushing for deals and products that force students to pay to participate in class. This merger will elevate that new model of pricey, expiring digital access. More competition, not less, will result in fairer prices for students,” said Vitez.
U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.