Why Are Textbooks So Expensive at UTC?

By: Cody Dowler

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) – At the beginning of each semester, most UTC students are all asking the same question but don’t receive an answer. Why do textbooks cost so much?

There are a massive number of reasons why textbook prices are high and keep rising. Here are just a few of those reasons.


  • Highly specialized material – Many college textbooks are highly specialized and the material is unavailable in any other book. The low volume of published books and the lack of market competition drive publishers to jack up prices.
  • Copyright payments – The publishing companies have to pay copyright fees to every author in the book. A poetry book for a literature class, for example, may involve clearing hundreds of copyrights.
  • Online companions – Many textbooks are complemented by online resources. The subscription fee is built in to the cost of the book. (i.e. Wiley Plus, My Math Lab).
  • Used Textbooks – Publishers make no money when too many used books are in circulation. As a consequence, they will often release new editions every few years in order to make the used books obsolete.

These main reasons have been key to the incredible inflation of textbook prices. USA Today reports that the price of textbooks rises about 6% each year now and has risen an astounding 82% in the last decade.

How did you pay for books this past semester?

Students are beginning to find savvy ways to get around buying textbooks at full price or at all. USA Today also reports that 34% of students downloaded course content from an unauthorized website, up from 20% in 2010. 31% of students say they’ve photocopied or scanned chapters from other students’ books, up from 21% in 2010.

These methods may be saving students quite a bit of cash, but it is only hurting these publishing companies. These companies only make money for textbooks at their outrageous prices. They make no money from that same textbook if it is sold again, scanned, or photocopied any amount of times.

A great way to find free, online content is through Project Blue Sky. Launched in November 2012, this is a search engine developed by a company called Gooru specifically for online education, allowing people to “search, select and seamlessly integrate Open Education Resources.”

Academic publishers will tell you that creating modern textbooks is an expensive, labor-intensive process that demands charging high prices. But the industry also shares some of the dysfunctions that help drive up the cost of healthcare spending. Just as doctors prescribe prescription drugs they’ll never have to pay for, college professors often assign titles with little consideration of cost.

Students, like patients worried about their health, don’t have much choice to pay up, lest they risk their grades.

The graph shown below from The Atlantic greatly shows the inflation of textbook prices this generation. Since 1978, the cost of school textbooks and other supplies has risen an astounding 812%. That’s more than triple the Consumer Price Index rise of 250%.


The simplest form of a diagnosis to this issue is for these publishing companies to face the facts and lower their prices. Students are no longer willing to put with spending an extra $1000 each semester just for books that may not even be useful in their studies.

Buying all the books a student needs at his or her school’s bookstore is by far the easiest way and quickest way to get started on the semester. If bookstores just lowered their prices, they would see a huge influx of money from students who would take this easier route.

Instead, these publishing companies will continue to be stubborn about their prices. So it’s not surprising that textbook publishers have filed a lawsuit against the spreading of free, online educational content. That’s what you do when your revenue is threatened: use it to hire good lawyers.

Have faith young and future students of America’s Universities, The amount of free, high-quality online educational content is sure to grow. At the same time, the rise of the global middle class is creating a surge in demand for low-cost education. This will eventually force publishing companies to have a choice for survival: Either fold or lower prices.

And I have a strong feeling that they’ll go with the latter.

For more information about the effects of textbook pricing at UTC, check out these stories on The Loop.

Former Marine Bakes to Death in NYC Jail Cell

By: Cody Dowler, Andrea Jungels

NEW YORK (AP/UTC-The Loop) — Jerome Murdough was just looking for a warm place to sleep on a chilly night last month when he curled up in an enclosed stairwell on the roof of a Harlem public housing project where he was arrested for trespassing.

A week later, the mentally ill homeless man was found dead in a Rikers Island jail cell that four city officials say had overheated to at least 100 degrees, apparently because of malfunctioning equipment.

The officials told The Associated Press that the 56-year-old former Marine was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication, which may have made him more vulnerable to heat. He also apparently did not open a small vent in his cell, as other inmates did, to let in cool air.

“He basically baked to death,” said one of the officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss specifics of the case.

The medical examiner’s office said an autopsy was inconclusive and that more tests were needed to determine Murdough’s exact cause of death. But the officials, all with detailed knowledge of the case, say initial indications from the autopsy and investigation point to extreme dehydration or heat stroke.

Advocates for mentally ill inmates in New York say the death represents the failure of the city’s justice system on almost every level: by arresting Murdough instead of finding him help, by setting bail at a prohibitive $2,500 and by not supervising him closely in what is supposed to be a special observation unit for inmates with mental illnesses.

Department of Correction spokesman Robin Campbell said in a statement that an internal investigation will look into all circumstances of Murdough’s death, “including issues of staff performance and the adequacy of procedures.”

Campbell acknowledged that the temperature in Murdough’s cell was “unusually high” and that action has been taken to fix mechanical problems to ensure safe temperatures, “particularly in areas housing vulnerable inmates.”

Murdough’s 75-year-old mother, Alma Murdough, said she did not learn of her son’s death until the AP contacted her last week, nearly a month after he died. His public defender was told of the death three days after the inmate was found, the DOC said.

“He was a very lovely, caring guy,” said Murdough, adding that her son had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and that she had not seen him in about three years.

“He had beer problems. Drinking beer. That was his downfall. Other than that, he was a very nice guy. He’d give you the shirt off his back.”

Family members say Murdough grew up in Queens and joined the Marine Corps right out of high school, doing at least one stint in Okinawa, Japan.

When he returned from the service, his family said, both his mental illness and thirst for alcohol became more pronounced, and he would often disappear for months at a time, finding warmth in hospitals, shelters and the streets.

“When he wanted to venture off, we let him, we allowed him to come and go,” recalled his sister, Cheryl Warner. “He always came back.”

Murdough’s criminal record included 11 misdemeanor convictions for trespassing, drinking in public and minor drug charges, said Ivan Vogel, a public defender who represented him at his arraignment on the trespassing charge.

According to the city officials, Murdough was locked alone into his 6-by-10 cinderblock cell at about 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, a week after his arrest. Because he was in the mental-observation unit, he was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes as part of suicide watch, they said. But Murdough was not discovered until four hours later, at about 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 15. He was slumped over in his bed and already dead.

When Murdough was found and his cell opened, his internal body temperature and the temperature in the cell were at least 100 degrees. Those temperatures could have been higher before he was discovered because the cell had been closed for several hours, the officials said.

Dr. Susi Vassallo, an associate professor at New York University School of Medicine and a national expert on heat-related deaths who monitors heat conditions at Rikers Island, said psychotropic medications can impair the body’s ability to cool itself by sweating, making it retain more heat than it should.

Exposure to intense heat for a couple of hours by someone on such medications could be fatal, she said.

Last year, only three Rikers inmates died from non-natural causes, according to Department of Correction statistics.

Of the 12,000 inmates who make up the nation’s second-largest jail system, about 40 percent are mentally ill, and a third of them suffer from serious mental problems the department said. Advocates and others have long argued that correction officers are not sufficiently trained to deal with mentally ill inmates whose needs are complex.

Catherine Abate, a member of the New York City Board of Correction, an agency charged with overseeing the city’s jails, suggested at a recent public meeting that Murdough should have been referred him to psychiatric care, not to Rikers Island.

Jennifer J. Parish, an attorney at the New York-based Urban Justice Center’s Mental Health Project, said Murdough appeared to be a man in need of care.

“So Mr. Murdough violated the trespass law. So he suffered the consequences by going to jail,” Parish said. “But the jail system committed more serious harm to him. And the question is, ‘Will they ever be held responsible?'”

Wanda Mehala, another of Murdough’s sisters, said the family wants an explanation.

“We want justice for what was done,” she said. “He wasn’t just some old homeless person on the street. He was loved. He had a life. He had a family. He had feelings.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

By: Cody Dowler

ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP/UTC The Loop) — There are 108 names on the list of people who’ve been reported missing or unaccounted for in the weekend mudslide in Washington state, authorities said Monday.

Snohomish County emergency management director John Pennington said that’s the consolidated list from various sources that authorities are working from, and it doesn’t mean there are that many injuries or fatalities.

“It’s a soft 108,” Pennington said at a news conference.

Among the possible missing are construction workers coming into the neighborhood and people just driving by. Pennington added the slide occurred on a Saturday morning, when more people were likely to be home.

An overnight search turned up no additional survivors or fatalities.

“The situation is very grim,” Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said Monday morning.

He stressed that authorities are still in rescue mode and are holding out hope. But he noted: “We have not found anyone alive on this pile since Saturday.”

At least eight people were killed in the 1-square-mile slide that hit in a rural area about 55 miles northeast of Seattle. Several people also were critically injured, and about 30 homes were destroyed.

Of the 49 structures in the neighborhood hit by the slide, authorities believe at least 25 were occupied full-time.


Associated Press writers Phuong Le and Donna Gordon Blankinship in Seattle contributed to this report.


Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


New Publix of North Shore Granted Construction Requests

By: Cody Dowler

CHATTANOOGA, TN (UTC/The Loop) – The Chattanooga City Council passed an ordinance on February 25 which will allow wall tiebacks to be built for the new Publix in North Shore. These tiebacks will strengthen the walls running along Kent street, Hamilton Avenue, and Woodland Avenue.

The store is now expected to be finished and open by late 2014. Publix officials originally announced that the store would be ready to open in February 2014.

The North Shore Publix is expected to be done in late 2014

The North Shore Publix is expected to be done in late 2014

Three buildings will be demolished to make room for the grocery store, which will include 4,800 square feet of separate, additional retail space.

Many local residents are very excited to have a convenience store on there side of town now. However, some are wary of how the new store would effect traffic and other small, local businesses.

In a News Channel 3 interview, North Shore resident, Shervin Dadkhahi-Poor, says “The Publix coming in can be a great addition to the whole community. But it all depends on the intent.”

Dadkhahi-Poor’s girlfriend currently owns ‘Home Grown Silver and Stone’ on Frazier Avenue. While he says the increased traffic will probably be good for business, he hopes the North Shore does not become too commercialized.

“I just hope the intent stays good and we keep Chattanooga original.”

“We look forward to becoming a part of this community,” says Brenda Reid, a representative with Publix. She says bringing their brand to North Shore makes sense. “We’ve had customers asking about a location closer in since we got here,” Says Reid.

The Proposed area to build the North Shore Publix

The Proposed area to build the North Shore Publix

Other Chattanooga area Publix stores include:

  1. Hurricane Creek 
    8644 E Brainerd Rd
    Chattanooga,  TN  37421-8325
  2. Creek Plantation Village                             5928 Hixson Pike Ste 112
    Hixson,  TN  37343-4839
  3. Snow Hill Village                                          5958 Snow Hill Rd Ste 168
    Ooltewah,  TN  37363-7834
  4. Mouse Creek Crossing                                 635 Paul Huff Pkwy NW
    Cleveland,  TN  37312-2970

Find a Publix near you with the store locator.

Bode Miller Cries After Winning Bronze

By: Cody Dowler, Andrea Jungels, Robresha Jackson

SOCHI, Russia (AP/The Loop) — American skier Bode Miller is responding to criticism of an NBC post-race interview by saying it was a “crazy emotional moment.”

See the entire interview here.

The interview, conducted after Miller won a bronze medal in the men’s super-G ski race, turned to his emotions given the passing of his younger brother, Chelone, who died last year. A visibly emotional Miller began crying during the interview, leaning against a railing.

Miller's wife comforts him after the emotional interview

Miller’s wife comforts him after the emotional interview

The moment drew backlash toward interviewer Christin Cooper, who pressed Miller about his brother, and NBC, which aired the full tape-delayed interview in primetime in the United States several hours later.

“I appreciate everyone sticking up for me,” Miller tweeted on Monday. “Please be gentle w christin cooper, it was crazy emotional and not all her fault. #heatofthemoment”

Miller was a trending topic on Twitter in the United States for much of the day after the tweet and critics said the interview was insensitive.

Richard Sandomir of The New York Times called it “overkill,” Kami Mattioli of the Sporting News said Cooper “repeatedly badgered” Miller and the AP’s David Bauder called it “a shameful spectacle.”

NBC said in a statement that its intent was to convey the emotion Miller felt.

“We understand how some viewers thought the line of questioning went too far, but it was our judgment that his answers were a necessary part of the story,” the statement said.

“My emotions were very raw, she asked the questions that every interviewer would have,” Miller said in another tweet. “Pushing is part of it, she wasnt trying to cause pain.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Late Refund Checks Won’t Keep The Lights On

By: Cody Dowler

CHATTANOOGA, TN (UTC/The Loop) –  A few unlucky UTC students have reported troubles they’ve had receiving money from financial aid. This has resulted in students receiving refund checks up to 3 weeks late.

My late refund check added late fees to my utility bills
Late refund checks have added late fees to utility bills.
Photo from Salon.com

As many students know, whenever you take out a federal loan you must sign something called a master promissory note which basically is your promise to the government that you will pay them back for your loan.

Some students waited two weeks after the refunds were supposed to be given out before going to the financial aid office to find out what was wrong. This is because they originally thought the problem was with the bursar’s office.

The financial aid office said they hadn’t received some students master promissory notes yet. These students became furious at this point and let the office know it very well. Students complained about being late on rent, Comcast, and EPB bills, and also about receiving late fees for each of these bills all because financial aid hadn’t received the promissory note yet.

As it turns out, they found these promissory notes the following day and these students received refunds the following Wednesday which was 3 weeks later than most people.

Josh Hawkins, a senior from Dickson, said, “I’ve had quite a few issues with receiving my money on time from financial aid. This semester I got my refund two weeks later than everyone else.”

When asked about how much he was depending on that refund money, Hawkins said, “I needed it really badly, I had to call home and ask my parents to pay my rent for the month. If my rent wasn’t so cheap though, they wouldn’t have been able to pay it. I don’t know what would’ve happened then.”

Sylvia Graves helping out a student in the financial aid office

Sylvia Graves helps out a student in the financial aid office

Sylvia Graves, a student services assistant who works in the financial aid department, said, “Yes, sometimes we do misplace things. We’re not perfect and it is important that students bring their issues to our attention. We can always hand out emergency loans if students need money immediately while we resolve whatever issues there may be.”

For more information on emergency loans and financial aid services, click here

A Good Career Move For Scott Stallings

Stallings won at Torrey Pines Sunday by a single stroke

Stallings won at Torrey Pines Sunday by a single stroke

By: Cody Dowler

SAN DIEGO (AP/The Loop) — Scott Stallings had ambitions to be a baseball player until the Sunday afternoon he sat down to the watch the 1997 Masters with his father.

He watched Tiger Woods demolish Augusta National and the field to win by 12 shots with the lowest score ever.

For a 12-year-old in Tennessee, it was inspirational.

“At that moment, I quit everything, every sport I was playing, and said, ‘That’s what I want to go do.’ And every one of my friends thought I was crazy,” Stallings said.

On Sunday, he put his name on the same trophy that Woods has won so many times.

It wasn’t a replica of the Augusta National clubhouse or even a green jacket, but it was no less special.

Stallings crushed a 4-iron from 222 yards that barely cleared the water on the par-5 18th green and left him two putts from 40 feet for a birdie that gave him a one-shot victory in the Farmers Insurance Open.

Woods, the defending champion and seven-time winner of this event, wasn’t around to see it. He missed the 54-hole cut on Saturday, an oddity in its own right and especially because Stallings’ biggest win before that was at The Greenbrier Classic, where Woods missed the 36-hole cut.

Stallings’ seventh birdie of the final round gave him a 4-under 68 and capped a wild day in which eight players had a reasonable chance to win in the final hour.

K.J. Choi had the low round of the tournament on the brutal South Course with a 6-under 66 to post the target at 8-under par. Jason Day and Graham DeLaet each made birdie on the last hole for 68s to join Choi.

Pat Perez, the San Diego native who used to pick balls on the practice range during the tournament when he was a kid, watched with a pained expression and a few choice words when a 12-foot par putt on the 16th and a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th narrowly missed. He made birdie on No. 18 to tie for second.

“It’s great and bad,” Perez said about his runner-up finish. “This is the one I want to win more than anything in the world, and I came up short. … I thought today would have been my day. I would like to be in that position again.”

Marc Leishman of Australia had the last chance to catch Stallings. His drive onto a cart path right of the 18th fairway bounced off a fan and kept him 260 yards from the green — he might not have gone for it, anyway — and his birdie made it a five-way tie for second.

But no one squandered a chance like Gary Woodland. He was one shot behind with two holes to play — one of them the 18th, which he can reach in two easily — only to pull his tee shot on the 17th into a canyon and three-putt from long range for double bogey.

“This will be hard to swallow,” Woodland said. “I felt like I kind of gave one away today.”

Woodland, who had a one-shot lead going into the final round, closed with a 74. He tied for 10th, a testament to how packed it was at the top. Nine players had at least a share of the lead at some point. Nineteen players were separated by two shots on the back nine. One of them was Jordan Spieth, who had bogeys on three of his last four holes for a 75 to tie for 19th.

For all the emphasis on missed opportunities, it was won by a guy was only thinking about winning — but only after remembering a loss.

It was one year and one week ago that Stallings, who had a five-shot lead going into the final round of the Humana Challenge, came to the 18th hole needing a birdie. He hit a 6-iron from 220 yards, not accounting for the ball being slightly above his feet, and he watched it sail left and bound into the water.

That’s what he was thinking about Sunday when he had 222 yards to the front and was between 4-iron and hybrid to clear the water.

“I actually thought about 18 at Humana the whole time on 18 today,” Stallings said. “Not that I was like, ‘Oh, don’t hit it in the water,’ but it was, ‘Just make sure you pay attention to everything that’s going on.'”

And he did. The cool Pacific air. The hanging lie. Knowing that anything too long would make birdie just as hard as if he laid up. Only he wasn’t about to lay up.

“I was playing to win,” he said.

His caddie, Jon Yarbrough (whom Woodland fired late last year), told him to play it a little back in his stance and hit it as hard as he wanted. Stallings worried only about solid contact, and it was enough to clear the water before trickling back just off the green.

Yarbrough told him, “Let’s see what you’ve got.” Stallings had experience from a failure, which he attributes to his win on Sunday.

And he had his name on a list with Woods, the guy who inspired him to get started.

“Having my name close to his in a great event that he’s obviously dominated is pretty awesome,” Stallings said.

Better yet, that win earned him a trip back to the Masters.

See the final leader board here and the PGA Tour 2014 schedule here


Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.