The 1st line of the defense would be the prof. Having 2 girls in college, I experience their pain. What I try to do is keep costs down for the students, and I do this in a number of ways. I have been teaching statistics for over 20 years and it has not changed; it is not an exact science. As a result, I use and older edition of the textbook, which are readily available via Amazon, e-Bay, etc, which reduces the price between 50-90% depending on the seller and book condition. In addition, for some courses that do experience change, I attempt to get a customized textbook that doesn’t have as many chapters and costs less; and lastly, in some of my non-quantitative courses, I have prepared my own power points and I have told my students if they take good notes and have good attendance, they can succeed without purchasing the text. The students are doing their part too by searching for used books, e-books and renting books.
However, I feel that the ultimate villain in this case is the FTC. The Federal Trade Commission, which has been in existence since 1914, is the federal agency that is tasked with maintaining completion and truth in advertising, and I feel on a number of occasions, they have dropped the ball and failed miserably. When any two large firms merge, they must first get the approval of the FTC, and this agency has given carte blanche to every merger/buyout in this industry. During this year’s presidential election campaign, there is much talk/hyperbole about breaking up the big banks. Maybe they should be looking at the textbook industry also.