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Legislators Aim To Cut College Textbook Costs

March 24, 2010

booksLawmakers in Tennessee and Ohio are proposing plans that would cut textbook costs for college students.

The new bill in Ohio calls for more electronic textbooks on campuses, provides more money for students who sell books back to book stores, and creates a program that allows schools to lower their retail prices by buying in bulk.

"We can't ask students and families to shoulder the unnecessary costs of excessive textbook prices," noted Democratic Rep. Matt Lundy, a co-sponsor of the bill, who was quoted in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "We should be opening every possible door for our students, not chaining them to multiple semesters' worth of burdensome and overwhelming debt brought on by overly expensive textbooks."

The proposed law would guarantee that students receive at least 50 percent of the textbook price when they resell books to bookstores immediately after a class is finished. But critics have argued that such a plan would force some college bookstores to close.

Keith McCann, director of the Cleveland State University book store, told the Plain Dealer that legislators should not be determining how much used books are worth. "Then make car dealers buy back their cars at 50 percent," he said. "Where does it end? It's not like I'm making lots of money here."

In Tennessee, meanwhile, Knoxville Republican Stacey Campfield has proposed legislation that has raised the ire of college educators: It bans textbook royalties to state college professors. Currently, professors who research or revise texts can earn as much as a 15 percent royalty for every book sold, giving them an incentive to require those textbooks in class.

"These professors are lining their pockets," said Tres Wittum, a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, who was interviewed by the Tennessean. Wittum was required to purchase a professor's book for a class.

UT officials said the proposal was unnecessary. Hank Dye, UT vice president for public and governmental relations, told the Knoxville News Sentinel that professors typically earn little money from book royalties, and those who do receive more are often the best in their field.

"If some professor is trying to take advantage of students, the university is not going to let that happen," said Dye in the Sentinel. "The things he [Campfield] alleges about that simply aren't correct."


Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman

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