Proposed Bill Encourages Universities To Address Textbook Affordability

This story was written by J.J. Alcantara, The Daily Reveille
A new bill being considered by the U.S. Senate may offer students the truth behind sky-rocketing textbook prices.

Section 134 of the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008 will require college textbook publishers to disclose the wholesale price of the text book and information about changes between the different editions to university faculty and students. It would also force publishers to sell books and supplemental materials -- such as CD-ROMs -- separately, instead of packaging them together.

The purpose of the section is "to ensure that every student in higher education is offered better and more timely access to affordable course materials" by finding ways to decrease the cost of college textbooks for students while allowing faculty members to select high quality materials.

The bill, introduced by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., was passed Feb. 7 in the U.S. House of Representatives, 354-58. It was referred Feb. 25 to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

If signed into law, the bill will go into effect July 1.

Some students said they would be relieved to find books sold separately, instead of in bundles.

A new textbook packaged with a CD-ROM for Biology 1201, Biology for Science Majors I, costs more than $150 at Co-Op Bookstore.

The same textbook without the CD-ROM costs about $121 on

Aimee LeBlanc, kinesiology junior, said this requirement would be good because she has had textbooks that came with a CD and never used them.

Terry Mickail, psychology junior, said the bill revision is a good idea because he never uses the software.

"For the most part, I've never used anything that came with it but the textbook," said Jared Walker, electrical engineering sophomore.

Adam Landry, history sophomore, disagrees.

"It's nice to have the option," Landry said.

Many students showed interest in knowing the difference between the price they pay for the textbook and the price bookstores pay to resell them.

LeBlanc said she spent more than $200 this semester on textbooks and would be mad if she found out the price she paid for her books cost more than the publisher's cost to print them.

"It'd lead to a lot of people not buying textbooks because they're pissed off at the publishers," Landry said.

Mickail said he does not think the requirement will change anything because the publishers will charge whatever they want.

"I don't think most students would care [about the price difference] because they have to spend the money anyway," Walker said.

Some students also said having information about the content revisions in textbooks was a good idea.

"I wouldn't worry about it," Walker said. "Teachers usually tell students that they need to buy the new textbook because of drastic changes - otherwise, it's not important."

Landry said if he had an old edition and knew about the changes, he would not buy the new one to save money.

"They get outdated so fast; it's ridiculous," Landry said.

The bill would also encourage universities to work with student organizations to help understand the factors that drive textbook costs and to find available methods to mitigate the effects of its costs.

Walker said students are better off borrowing textbooks from friends rather than buying them.

Mickail said he likes teachers who sell their notes "instead of textbooks with all this information you don't need."
© 2008 The Daily Reveille via U-WIRE