McLovin, about the pricing.
In the States and Canada dive shops sell retail to the students all along the certification path. Some make such a profit on the retailing of new equipment to students they can practically give the course away. Here in the Caribbean we include everything and don't retail the student at all.
If the course is taught like my shop does (and most do) the training dives alone are worth $255.usd.
Thats the price you would pay if you where certified and just went as a certified diver to the same dive locations where the student is doing their training dives.
Add the rental for regulator, BCD, and mask snorkel fins for three days and thats another 180.usd.
Then include the price of a photoID card and the Book, the $475.usd for a course that includes everything is cheap.
Most of the students getting certified here just said No' to the option of doing their training dives in a cold quarry or murky local lake at home and opted to do it in the warm beautiful Carribean Sea instead.
But thats just my opinion :-)