A new Florida law will give students more time to make an informed decision when buying textbooks.
As of July 1, the Florida Legislature will require all state universities and community colleges to inform their students of what textbooks they need at least 30 days before of the first day of classes. The University has until March 1, 2009 to implement policies that will adhere to this law.
Some are unsure, however, if the University will be able to uphold to this new law.
Grace McQueen, general manager of the USF Bookstore, said she is not sure if professors will get their textbook lists in before the 30-day mark.
Senior Vice Provost Dwayne Smith, however, said professors in the past have been urged to get their textbooks lists in as early as possible. For previous fall semesters, professors were requested to hand textbook lists in to the University before mid-April.
“For most professors, the 30-day issue does not pose a problem,” he said.
Smith said he hopes there is an exception written into the law that allows flexibility for late-forming classes.
“There are cases where it’s not possible to get it in 30 days in advance,” he said.
The law does not, however, stipulate any exceptions.
Supporters of the new law said it gives students the chance to get textbooks at a cheaper rate by comparing prices.
“When you have that information and are about to shop around, the free market delivers the best price,” said Florida Student Association (FSA) Executive Director Chris Krampert, who lobbied for the bill in Tallahassee.
Krampert said he thinks the extra time to compare prices will eventually lower the cost of textbooks at campus bookstores.
“Students are forced to buy that book at the campus bookstore for that price,” he said. “When you have competition, it will lower the price.”
Student Government (SG) President Gregory Morgan agrees with Krampert’s outlook.
“This gives students the opportunity to shop for affordable textbooks,” Morgan said.
McQueen said the new law will probably not impact the bookstore much.
“Competition has been out there for a while,” she said.
McQueen explained that not only does the bookstore compete with online venues such as amazon.com, but also with local stores such as Gray’s College Bookstore.
The Textbook Affordability Bill, which put this law into place, was passed by the Florida Legislature at the end of April and signed by Gov. Charlie Crist May 28. The bill was a response to findings about textbook and higher education prices by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (USGAO).
Congress determined that “textbooks are an essential part of a comprehensive and high-quality postsecondary education” and asked the USGAO to determine the change in textbook prices and why they have changed. In July 2005, the USGAO found that textbooks increased at twice the rate of inflation, but they fall short when compared to tuition increases.
“Increasing at an average of 6 percent per year, textbook prices nearly tripled from December 1986 to December 2004, while tuition and fees increased by 240 percent and overall inflation was 72 percent,” the report stated.
Using this information, Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, filed the bill in January to address these concerns for Florida schools.
The bill also imposes other textbook restrictions on state universities. It must be assured by the professor or academic department that all items in a bundle pack, such as textbooks, workbooks and CDs wrapped together, will actually be used. Also, instructors must evaluate to what extent a new edition of a book differs from the old to see if it’s worth it for students to buy the new, typically more expensive, edition.