A new school year means time to hit the books, but soaring textbook prices have students reaching time and time again for their wallets. But there could be hope for students’ savings accounts in the near future following the introduction of a federal law that requires professors to post a list of textbooks for their classes during registration. This new regulation could significantly benefit the student body and the University faculty should recognize the law’s potential to help their students. The provision provides a sensible rule for faculty members to follow, but teachers should take the initiative to find ways to decrease the cost of books even further.
On Jul. 1, a provision to the Higher Education Opportunity Act that requires professors at schools that receive federal funding to post textbook lists at the time of registration became effective. According to figures from the Student Public Interest Research Group, students spend an average of $900 on textbooks each year. The regulation aims to decrease that expense. But many students said the new rules won’t change their shopping habits despite new, cheaper options being available to them, according to a report last week in the Daily.
Students should take advantage of the provision. It will give students more time to buy textbooks. This means that students will have more opportunity to compare prices from websites and local bookstores. Granting access to required readings prior to the start of school would give students ample time to scan through textbook websites like Half.com, Amazon.com and Cheapbooks.com before waiting in line at local University bookstores. The added competition could help to encourage local bookstores to offer more books to rent — a significantly cheaper option — and perhaps even drive down prices.
In addition to the benefit of lowering student costs, this law could potentially help students become more prepared for class. As such, faculty should make every effort to comply with the regulation. They can start by making sure to post book lists in accordance with this policy change. But to ensure students don’t buy non-required books, faculty should also indicate specifically which texts are required and which are optional for further reading.
University faculty should also recognize that complying with this law isn’t limited to posting book lists early. At its core, the law is meant to alleviate the burden of costs on students. In keeping with the spirit of the law, University faculty members should consider choosing less expensive textbooks when feasible. Faculty should also make additional books available on reserve at the library and consider posting more reading excerpts online via CTools.
With the rising costs of higher education, this provision could help students manage tight budgets responsibly. And faculty members should go the extra mile to provide students with textbook lists and possibly cheaper alternatives to expensive textbooks. The federal government has done its job, now it is up to faculty to make the policy reach as far as possible.