Senator Proposes Legislation To Cut College Textbook Costs

Thomas P. Morahan

March 27, 2006

State Senator Thomas P. Morahanis proposing Senate legislation to lower the cost of textbooks for college students. His bill would provide guidelines to encourage professors and bookstores to slow costs, which the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) found are "rising faster than inflation or tuition." The GAO study found that at four year colleges more than a quarter of the cost of tuition and fees is spent on books, while at community colleges, the cost of books often amounts to almost 75% of tuition and fees.

"It is critical that we encourage professors to limit their use of new editions of books when previous editions don’t differ much. Many students and parents are frustrated with textbook companies making minor changes to books, reissuing them every few years to quash the used book market. Students shouldn’t have to spend half their tuition for assigned books," said Morahan.

Morahan’s legislation would require the following:

Ÿ That governing boards of public institutions of higher education implement policies, procedures, and guidelines that encourage efforts to minimize the cost of textbooks for students at public colleges and universities while maintaining the quality of education and academic freedom. The guidelines would ensure the following:

Ÿ That faculty textbook adoptions are made with sufficient lead time to university- or contract-managed bookstores so as to confirm availability of the requested materials and, where possible, ensure maximum availability of used textbooks;

Ÿ That in the textbook adoption process, the intent to use all items ordered, particularly each individual item sold as part of a bundled package, is affirmatively confirmed by the faculty member before the adoption is finalized. If the faculty member does not intend to use each item in the bundled package, he would notify the bookstore, and the bookstore would order the individualized items when their procurement is cost effective for both institutions and students and such items are made available by the publisher;

Ÿ That faculty members affirmatively acknowledge the bookstore's quoted retail price of textbooks selected for use in each course;

Ÿ That faculty members are encouraged to limit their use of new edition textbooks when previous editions do not significantly differ in a substantive way as determined by the appropriate faculty member; and

Ÿ That the establishment of policies include provisions for the availability of required textbooks to students otherwise unable to afford the cost.