Statement on Cengage-McGraw-Hill merger announcement

Media Contacts

WASHINGTON — Two of the largest college textbook publishers, Cengage and McGraw-Hill, announced today that they intend to merge in early 2020. The resulting company would be the second-largest textbook publisher in the U.S. market.

U.S. PIRG’s Higher Education Campaign Director Kaitlyn Vitez issued the following statement in response:

“Textbook prices have risen four times faster than inflation over the past few decades because a handful of powerful textbook publishers control 80 percent of the market. They use tactics like frequent new editions and expiring digital access to maintain their profit margins and take advantage of a captive group of consumers — students. Consolidating the already broken textbook market into fewer, more powerful companies is only going to exacerbate the problems that caused the textbook affordability crisis in the first place.

“Cengage’s CEO claims that this move will make materials more affordable for students. But, given past behavior by the publishers, we can’t take that claim at face value. Publishers are feeling pressure from the increased use of free, openly licensed materials and other low-cost options on college campuses. To maintain their edge in an era of razor-thin profit margins, they 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.”


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.