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New law might help pay for textbooks

03/30/2010
By:

Jonathan J Burton

Special to the Southern News

A new law could make paying for college textbooks a lot easier for students and their parents, according to Southern’s Vice President for Student and University Affairs Dr. Ronald Herron.

A new provision added to the Higher Education Opportunity Act, called “Textbook Cost Containment,” will give students the opportunity to know the texts and materials required for their classes with prices listed at the time the student registers for the class.

“What’s going to happen is, when students are in the registration screen of Banner[Web] and they’re picking a course, there will be a link that they can click that will take them to the bookstores site,” Herron said. “It will show them what material and texts are required for that particular course.”

Herron and the American Council on Education said textbook cost containment will go into effect July 1, 2010.

According to Herron, the Higher Education Opportunity Act is a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Herron said Congress is required by law to look at all the components within the law and “do what they call ‘reauthorization’.”

According to ACE, Congress is five years late reauthorizing the bill. Former president George W. Bush signed the bill into law on Aug. 14, 2008.

ACE said the bill was extended an “unprecedented 14 times” and went through various revisions.

The HEOA is the parent piece of legislation, Herron said, “which many, many, many components of law that applies to higher education hangs.”

Textbook cost containment was added to the HEOA because Congress heard many complaints from students and their parents about how much money textbooks cost, according to Herron.

ACE has compiled an analysis of each provision in the HEOA to help campuses begin understanding the new law. Of the provisions ACE analyzed, textbook cost containment was one.

“One of the main objectives of the U.S. HEOA is to increase transparency in the higher education textbook market,” the director of communications for McGraw-Hill Tom Stanton said. “A goal we share and support as well.”

According to ACE’s analysis, colleges and universities will be required to disclose their course schedules, the ISBN number of every required text, and any other supplemental materials at the time of registration.

“So now students can go find the texts required for the class elsewhere,” Herron said. “The bookstore will no longer have a corner on the market just because they’re located on our campus.”

Students will now be able to search for books on Amazon or eBay, Herron said.

“Granted they do that now,” said Herron, “but under the new textbook cost containment law they will have ample time to look for textbooks, as opposed to a week or two before classes start.”

Herron said the bookstore will no longer have students as a constrained buyer.

“Things will be a lot easier,” said Jessica Luczkow, a freshman education major. “Right now if you
come into school you’re kind of obligated to go into the bookstore and buy the books because the school takes forever to post the material.”

Luczkow said there is a possibility the bookstore will have more used books, because students will now know if the book is being used for next semester in advance; students will have a reason to sell their books back to the bookstore.

“Now used books sell out so fast because they have so little,” said Luczkow.

Herron’s theory is that once this goes into effect and students begin to order more of their textbooks online, prices may decrease.

“Competition for the price of books is good,” said Herron.

Nursing department secretary Sheryl Chin said she would like to see professors plan their courses out a semester in advance.

However, professors who teach courses that require the most up-to-date information will probably not
be able to plan their course a semester ahead of time, she said.

Eric Anderson, an adjunct professor in the science department, said it’s a “fantastic” law, but others may not agree.

“There are some professors who will think of this as an inconvenience,” said Anderson.

Kimberly Lacey, an assistant professor in the nursing department, said she will not have an issue planning her class a semester ahead of time.

“It will not create more work,” Lacey said. “I think it just means doing the work earlier than it has traditionally been done.”

According to Lacey, the only problem she foresees is if a new textbook is published once the course is set.

“Of course as faculty we’re going to want the most up-to-date text,” said Lacey.

The manager of the campus bookstore, Larry Gal, said it all depends on the professors and when they get their course information into the bookstore.

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