Textbook act expands students' options

The legislation allows students to view their text requirements in advance in order to save money.
Freshman Jessie Struckoff buys her textbooks through the University Bookstore's "Early Bird" program. The Higher Education Opportunity Act took effect July 1 and requires universities to make textbook lists available to students during enrollment to give them ample time to find cheaper alternatives to the university's prices.

One month after the Higher Education Opportunity Act took effect, University Bookstore is already feeling the legislation's impact.

The legislation was drafted to supply college students with a list of books that were required when registering for classes. This list allows students to search for books earlier and purchase them cheaper via the Internet and local bookstores.

“Even prior to HEOA and the Missouri Textbook Transparency Act (House Bill 2048) University Bookstores began implementing multiple strategies to reduce the cost of course materials,” Student Auxiliary Services spokeswoman Michelle Froese said in an e-mail.

The strategies include promoting on-time textbook orders to faculty. If faculty members turn in their textbook adoptions to the bookstore on time, students can save money, especially for those faculty members who use the same book every year.

Another money-saving strategy is textbook rental. Froese said the program started at the Missouri University of Science and Technology Bookstore in the fall of 2007, when the staff started renting books for the math department. Over the course of four semesters, 989 books were rented for college algebra and trigonometry. The rental option was $34 per book compared to buying a new textbook at $128 each and the rental program saved the students a collective $92,966 compared to $126,592 if they all bought a new book. Froese said this fall students at MU can rent more than 200 titles.

The used book program also saves money for students. Froese said University Bookstore is ranked number one nationally in the number of used books provided.

“Over 40 percent of our textbook inventory is used — the national average is 28 percent so we feel that we’re doing an excellent job,” Froese said.

Despite the fact that the legislation allows students to look at other places for cheaper prices for their books, Froese said the bookstore has not noticed a decline in overall book sales because they have been proactive in carrying used books.

“Our textbook buyers scour online sellers, as well as use nine used book companies,” Froese said.

English professor Scott Cairns, who often buys used books, said the HEOA is a good idea. Unlike many professors, Cairns does not use the same books every year.

“The world changes, and my courses need to keep up,” Cairns said.

Cairns said he had no preference over whether or not students should buy new or used books. As long as the book is in good condition, there is no problem, he said.

Sophomore Cho Ngai also bought used books. She said she would rather go to the University Bookstore than other local bookstores for her course materials.

“It is closer and convenient for me because I don’t have a car,” Ngai said.

Cairns said there is another method that can save students money.

“I was a part of a co-op group when I was in college at Western Washington University and students received an immediate 30 percent discount at the bookstore,” Cairns said. “Any profit earned was returned to the student activity account.”

Froese said although most people are aware of the benefits of buying used books rather than new, it is important to inform faculty that when they use older editions of textbooks, it can financially benefit their students.

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