Education News

Why Some Colleges Are Dropping Student Yearbooks

The end of the school year is a time for spring dances, graduation parties, and the receiving of a yearbook. That tradition is still going strong in high schools, but that’s not so much the case at a growing number of colleges and universities.


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Producing a college yearbook can cost anywhere from $35,000 to more than $100,000. When the recession hit in 2008, media departments at some universities had a tough choice to make.

View the Yearbook Cover
This edition of the Houstonian, published in 2011, is the official yearbook of the University of Houston.

"Schools were looking to find money to keep funding their student newspaper, and the yearbook was usually the first thing they looked at because it was their biggest expense," says Kelly Lash (also known as Kelly Callaway), the director of student publications at Rice University and president of the College Media Association.

That group is trying to put a number on just how many schools have discontinued their yearbooks over the last decade.

"There are some places that just want to drop it and they don't want to bring attention to it. There are some places that are really excited they're dropping it because they're going to do an exciting new venture and now they have the money to do that," Lash said.

Sometimes, that new venture means putting out a magazine in lieu of a yearbook.

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This edition of the Houstonian, published in 1938, is the official yearbook of the University of Houston.

That's what the University of Houston switched to four years ago. It kept the yearbook's name: "Houstonian." But the magazine is now a review of highlights from the year — not a comprehensive volume of students, faculty, sports teams, and academic clubs.

Rice’s Lash says she doesn’t disparage annual magazines. She believes they are generally well made. But she adds “five, ten, fifteen years from now, when you want to look back, or you're doing research, you don't have the photo of the famous alum who graduated from your program. You can't prove what clubs and organizations he was in. They've lost that resource."

Lash suspects students under the spell of social media have talked themselves into a new way of thinking about archives of their college days.

"Because we have Facebook, and Twitter, and we're all gonna stay in touch forever. And we'll never forget who our English professor was. Where, in reality, we will. But when you're in the midst of that, it doesn't seem quite as important,” Lash said.

In addition to creative marketing, Lash recommends colleges keep their yearbooks relevant by reminding students that they offer a permanence that neither social media, nor photos kept in the cloud, can touch.

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David Pitman

David Pitman


David was HPM's local Morning Edition host from 2009 to 2020 — when he was moved to the position of Technical Director of Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, and Town Square with Ernie Manouse. David has extensive public and commercial broadcast journalism and production experience dating back to 1993 –...

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