For many students, the college years are a time in which money is stretched thin and every dollar counts. Expenses for education beyond tuition often sour students’ attitudes toward institutions of higher learning because of the negative impact on their finances.
Student frustration may be most evident in the college bookstore. Many students and professors criticize the ethics behind textbooks with soaring prices and countless editions. Each semester, more books become obsolete to make way for new editions, and students find they are unable to re-sell books they may have paid hundreds of dollars for. Also, the addition of online access codes for corresponding Web sites to some textbooks requires students to purchase expensive codes online even if they are able to find a used version of the textbook.
However, if the U.S. Congress has any say on the matter, college textbook sales may be regulated by the federal government.
In an article that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education today, the House of Representatives is proposing to add measures to the Higher Education Act specifically regarding textbooks. The Chronicle states that Alex Marrero, a member of the House education committee, believes that as a part of the cost of education, textbooks need to be included in the Act.
The proposed bill comprises various measures that may reduce the soaring prices of educational materials. One proposal would require the separation of prepackaged bundles of CDs and other materials that are sold with books, which would allow purchasers to decide what is truly essential for the course.
Another major regulation would require universities to list what books are requisite for courses in their course catalogs. This would allow students to select courses that use books that are more affordable, thus lessening their financial burdens. The bill would make room for exceptions by allowing “to be determined” to be listed next to the course, in case a professor has not been assigned at the printing of the catalog or a textbook change takes place.
The legislation would also require publishers to state the wholesale price of the books on all promotional material.
While there will ultimately be debate over whether this change will actually help reduce higher education costs, it is refreshing that Congress has taken a step toward providing safeguards against an industry that has run unchecked for too long.