Lawmakers Look To Cut Textbook Costs

This story was written by Mackenzie Meador, Daily Texan

State lawmakers from across the country will continue to focus on the trend of rising textbook costs as an increasing number of students seek cheaper alternatives.

During the last Texas legislative session, the Higher Education Committee in the House of Representatives approved a bill intended to address textbook affordability, but it never left the House Calendar Committee, which decides when bills will be debated in the House.

"I think it was the most comprehensive textbook bill in the country," said Texas Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, vice chair of the education finance committee and the bill's primary author. "Unfortunately that meant there was something in it for everyone to dislike."

Among the bill's provisions were requirements for professors to take cost into account when selecting books, for universities to publish required booklists further in advance and for university bookstores not to sell bundled book packages unless all of the materials were required for a course.

The bill was opposed by publishers, bookstores and faculty members who felt they should not be required to select books based on price, Hochberg said.

"I was disappointed," he said. "We had almost entirely positive testimony outside of the industry."

Hochberg declined to say whether he has plans to file a bill addressing the issue, but that he would continue to look for opportunities to decrease textbook costs during the upcoming legislative session.

In June, Missouri's governor signed the College Textbook Transparency Act, a law intended to lower students' textbook bills by making the prices available to professors before they decide on booklists and requiring publishers to list the specific changes made to new editions, which often contain no significant revisions.

California passed a similar bill last October. Other versions are being considered in Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida and New York.

Student Government president Keshav Rajagopalan said he is continuing to talk to legislators this summer about ways to curb publishing practices such as book bundling and printing new editions without major modifications that create unnecessary expenses.

"So many students have to work, sometimes multiple jobs, to be able to afford to go to school and to live in Austin," Rajagopalan said. "It's increasingly hard for those students to afford the textbooks for [their] classes."