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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Bills aim to make textbooks less costly

    PHOENIX – As a result of student and parent interest, Arizona legislators have introduced bills in the Arizona Senate and House that would require publishers to disclose more information on college textbooks to purchasing faculty and professors.

    Currently, textbook publishers are not required to disclose information regarding price or availability of other editions to faculty and staff choosing textbooks for students, said Nicole Allen, director of the Make Textbooks Affordable Campaign.

    “”Price is removed from the primary factor in the decision to buy textbooks,”” Allen said. “”And the students have to buy them, regardless of price.””

    This allows publishers to issue new editions with minor changes and bundled textbooks with extraneous workbooks that students sometimes don’t use, Allen said. The legislation would also require publishers issue unbundled textbooks.

    The legislation will give students more power in the publishing industry because publishers will be required to provide information to faculty who make the purchasing decisions, said Tiffany Troidl, Arizona Students’ Association government affairs director. Because students aren’t the ones choosing the books, publishers are able to take advantage of the market, Troidl said.

    Arizona university students spend an average of $816 to $950 each year on textbooks and supplies, which equals one-fifth of a student’s in-state tuition, according to the Arizona Board of Regents textbook task force.

    Five states have passed textbook disclosure legislation including Connecticut, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota and Oklahoma. Legislation has also been introduced at the federal level, Allen said.

    Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, who is the vice-chairman for the House’s Higher Education Committee, said she cannot commit to supporting or not supporting the legislation, but she does have some concerns.

    “”I’m not sure this is some place the state Legislature needs to get involved in,”” she said.

    The regents might be in a better position to deal with this sort of issue, McLain said.

    The price of college textbooks have increased at twice the rate of inflation, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report published in July 2005.

    Since December 1986, textbook prices have nearly tripled, increasing by 186 percent, while tuition and fees increased by 240 percent and overall prices have grown by 72 percent, according to the report.

    “”The first thing I look for is the content and making sure that the content really satisfied what’s demanded of the course,”” said Joel Cuello, an associate professor of biosystems engineering.

    If a list of comparable textbooks were provided with prices, then the price would also be a consideration, he said.

    Information about a textbook is readily available online or by request from a publisher, said Bill Hildebrand, executive director of higher education for the Association of American Publishers.

    Information about a previous edition is in the preface of the book, and prices can be provided online in less than a second, Hildebrand said.

    Transparency is critical to the publishing industry because it’s a highly competitive industry, he said.

    “”The publishers will try to give as much information as possible in the hopes that they will choose their textbook,”” Hildebrand said.

    The textbook debate is highly emotional and political, he said.

    “”People feel like they can’t do anything about tuition and fees, so they attack textbooks,”” Hildebrand said.

    Disclosure legislation is the first step in making textbooks more affordable across the county, but the next is making sure there is a market for affordable textbooks, and even a push for “”open textbooks,”” available online to students for no additional cost, Allen said.

    Sometimes, professors make decisions that are not in the best interests of students, said one of the senate bill’s main sponsors, Sen. Tom O’Halleran, R-Sedona.

    “”Basically, the bottom line is it’s a way to protect the students from indiscriminate choosing of textbooks without even considering the economic consequences,”” he said.

    Today student leaders from ASA are holding a press conference to highlight the cost of textbooks and to speak out about the legislation on the ASU campus.

    At the UA, Tommy Bruce, Associated Students of the University of Arizona president, is working to garner faculty support for the legislation.

    “”We will always hear the stories of, ‘I paid a thousand dollars for my textbooks and I can’t sell my textbook back,'”” Bruce said. “”With tuition increasing and living costs increasing, it’s just getting so much more expensive. We can work on this on the university level.””

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