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Colleges Try To Make Textbooks More Affordable

By CityTownInfo.com Staff

February 20, 2009

In an effort to cut down on the rising cost of higher education, colleges and universities are trying to lower textbook costs.

The Washington Post reports that the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland last week unanimously approved guidelines geared towards making textbooks more affordable. The policy asks schools to post a number that identifies textbooks required by professors on the college's web site by a specific deadline each semester, allowing students to shop online for less expensive copies. The step is expected to help create a more competitive marketplace and ultimately lower textbook costs.

The new policy also lets students possibly recoup money by selling their books at the end of each semester. Campus bookstores often pay half the retail cost for a used book if a course will require it the next semester, compared to 10 percent of the cost if the store is unsure whether or not a book will be needed.

The policy also asks instructors to be informed of book prices before ordering them, with the hope that more awareness of the cost will push professors to explore less expensive options. In addition, faculty members will be encouraged to use the same editions for several years.

"Textbooks are a huge part of the cost of higher education," said state Sen. James C. Rosapepe in the Post. "At the University of Maryland, textbooks can cost 10 to 20 percent of the cost of attending classes. At community colleges, prices can be as much as a third of the cost of attending college. You can't have affordable college without lower textbook prices."

The soaring cost of textbooks is an issue which the federal government is addressing for the first time. MarketWire [from an article originally located at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29240824/] reports that President Barack Obama's stimulus package makes the cost of college textbooks and course materials eligible for tax credits, a move applauded by the National Association of College Stores (NACS).

Other institutions of higher learning are tackling the problem as well. The Post-Journal in New York notes that Jamestown Community College is exploring better options for buying textbooks, including introducing eBooks to the campus store for the fall 2009 semester.

Yet many say that much more can be done. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, commenting on new Florida guidelines similar to those adopted in Maryland, opines that a sales tax holiday on college textbooks would be helpful to students on tight budgets. The Sentinel also remarks that books should be sold without accompanying CDs or DVDs, which are not always necessary and inflate the price.

"Textbooks should be an aid to education," notes the article, "not a financial hindrance."

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