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Content Any Way U Want It!

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Content Any Way U Want It!

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Federal law helps students see, compare book prices

As students are deciding what classes to enroll in next semester, information about the price of the textbooks they need may not be available.

Despite the fact that it’s a federal law, faculty members don’t always get their information to the bookstore in time, said Jeff Nelson, director of the University Bookstore.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act, which was passed in 2008, included a textbook provision that took effect in 2010.

The aim, according to the act, was to “ensure that students have access to affordable course materials by decreasing costs to students and enhancing transparency and disclosure.”

Part of the law requires that universities must publish book information and cost online as soon as possible.

“At the beginning of our class registration, we’re lucky to have 20 percent [of book requests],” Nelson said.

It’s important to get the information as soon as possible because “the least expensive versions of textbooks are always first come, first served,” Nelson said.

As soon as the bookstore gets book information for a class, it puts it online, Nelson said. This way, students can see it and use it to compare courses and book cost, and it’s also available to the public.

There is a little yellow button to click that says “book list,” allowing anyone to access the information at anytime, he said.

This function also allows the University Bookstore’s competition to see the book list, so they can begin to get the books without the University Bookstore having to send it to them.

Nelson said it started implementing the law before it even went into effect.

“We saw it as a good thing even if it did little to raise awareness,” Nelson said.

The bookstore built it into its communication, he said, and benchmarked the University’s progress against that of other universities.

One of the things the bookstore did was make book information public as soon as it had it.

“It’s the principle of buyer beware,” he said.

The University Bookstore gets some book requests from faculty members before it even asks for them, but some they can get after the semester has already started, Nelson said.

Determining which books to use for a class can be a big process for faculty members, Nelson said.

Lee Meserve, distinguished teaching professor of biological sciences, always gets his book information to Nelson early.

He usually teaches the same classes from semester to semester, so the only changes are when the book publisher comes out with a new edition every few years, he said.

“The process is not all that difficult, but it’s just one other thing you have to remember to do,” he said.

When Meserve is deciding which book to use for his course, cost isn’t a factor, as he gets the book for free.

“Content and level of content— that typically makes the decision,” he said of the books for his anatomy and physiology course.

While the University gets the book information up onto their website within 15 minutes of getting it, some other universities used to get book information and not put it online until right before classes, Nelson said.

The stores may have thought it made them more competitive, he said, but now it’s illegal.

The theory with the law is that all book information is available when students register for classes, but that’s not always the case, Nelson said.

Faculty members often don’t give the information to the bookstore until much later, he said. Or departments may assign faculty members to classes later than usual, and it can be right up until the class starts.

As for whether students use the little yellow button to see just how much their books will cost before registering for a class, Nelson’s not sure.

“They may ask another student that sort of information,” he said. “Recommendation is probably more common.”

Carolyn Bajaksouzian, a senior science education major, meets with her advisor before each semester and plans her courses out, but she doesn’t pay much attention to the cost of books.

“Science books are expensive and I’ve just accepted it,” she said.

She said it depends on if cost difference of books between two courses would influence her decision to take a course.

“If I knew about the professor and I really wanted to take a class with a professor, I’d probably suck it up and pay the extra [money],” she said.

As far as the law, Bajaksouzian said she thinks it “would be helpful for some students who would be struggling to afford books.”

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