Legislature eases textbook burden

A bill recently filed in the Florida Legislature proposes new ways for schools to help make textbooks more affordable for students.

Bill 603, also titled the Textbook Affordability bill, would require State University System(SUS) colleges and universities to post textbook requirements on their Web sites. The postings would include the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), which identifies exact editions and volumes of published books.

The bill would require all Florida universities and community colleges to inform students of the textbooks required for all courses at least 30 days before the start of each semester, so students have time to compare prices.

The bill, which is being debated in the House of Representatives, was filed by Rep. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) on Jan. 18. If it passes, it will become effective July 1.

The bill would also require academic departments to determine if a new edition of a textbook was necessary, based on the significance of changes made from the previous edition. Academic departments would also have to ensure that all materials sold in bundle packages – such as books and CDs wrapped together – would be used in class. The bill originally would have eliminated sales tax on textbooks, but would likely not have gained support in the Senate, proponents said.

Billy Schmidt, director of community and government affairs of Student Government, helped edit the bill along with the Florida Student Association. The group is made up of university students across the state and lobbies for the SUS.

Student Government is also considering a trip to Tallahassee to lobby the bill in person.

The bill gives students the power to choose the way in which they go about purchasing textbooks for their courses, supporters said. They also said the bill also encourages textbook retailers to keep prices low because students know what is required and have time to shop around for the best deal.

The bill is in the Schools and Learning Council in the House and must be passed in committee before being voted on by the full House of Representatives.

With the help of students, more bills pertaining to education and student interests like the Textbook Affordability bill would likely pass, said Rep. Ed Homan (R-Tampa).

“Students should lobby the bill; it’s for them,” he said. “Drop an e-mail, send a letter or make a phone call.”

Most students were supportive of the bill.

“Most of the money I earn goes to buying textbooks at the beginning of the semester, and I would love to save some money whenever possible,” said Jonathan Fernandes, a fourth-year pre-education and religious studies major.

Darren Klawinski, a junior majoring in biomedical sciences, said the University might not look forward to the policy.

“Schools will probably complain because it will take money away from them,” he said.

Another student voiced similar concerns, but thought the bill was ultimately positive for students.

“It seems like a lot of work for schools to get the list of textbooks online, but it’s a good idea to help students,” said Chris Jenkins, a first-year psychology student.

Students who want to give legislators their opinion on the bill should contact their representative or senator. More information on the bill and representatives can be found at myfloridahouse.gov.