Textbook prices. This is a scary subject. I don't really know too much about the business end, but I think textbooks are extremely lucrative for publishers. They can charge what they want because you gotta have them. I got a glimpse of the business side recently when I heard that one of the publisher's reps, a very corporate type with power suits who had appeared on Jeopardy, was reassigned, after losing our order.
As my devoted readers know, my frugality extends beyond my immediate family, to the world at large. So I was always aware of the cost of the books I was ordering. But most teachers have no idea. At my current institution, frugality is built in. We have a textbook rental system, whereby students pay only $18.00 per course for up to two books! Given that language, math, and science books range now from $150.00-$200.00, with $50.00 or more for the flimsy workbooks that accompany them, you can see that this represents a huge savings. In fact, quite a few students say that the rental system--which the other state schools did not adopt--is what attracted them to the school in the first place.
In fact, the textbook industry reminds me of the drug industry; well-dressed reps who show up at your place of employ, sometimes with pizza (better lunches at doctor's offices). Customers who HAVE TO HAVE THE PRODUCT. And doctors/teachers who have no idea of the cost of what they just ordered.
I don't think we're allowed to get pizza anymore, incidentally. I have heard reports on NPR outlining how professors are offered trips for research or author credits and so forth. That's not the case at my school as far as I know.
My children are at colleges where they have to buy textbooks. Tomorrow: a report on my successes and failures in getting them textbooks at reasonable (i.e. "reasonable") prices.