While financial and health care reform has been in the forefront of Washington’s agenda, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin, D-Ill., still has students on the brain.
“I’ve visited campuses and started talking to parents and others, heard a lot of talk about textbooks and that this was a growing expense,” Durbin said.
Two years after the Senate enacted the Higher Education Opportunity Act, Durbin’s provision of the bill has finally gone into effect to help save college students hundreds of dollars.
It’s titled “Durbin’s College Textbook Affordability Act” and is aimed at lowering textbook costs by regulating and working directly with publishers and colleges.
The act went into effect July 1.
In August 2008, the California Bureau of State Audits released a report summarizing college textbook affordability. The research, which focused on the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges, showed the increase of prices “outpaced median household income.”
Other research through advocate groups report similar facts.
Durbin said it was data such as these that inspired the textbook affordability act, which will work to address costs in three steps starting this fall.
“Professors don’t know the prices of textbooks, which is hard to believe, but it’s true,” Durbin said. “Professors don’t know. Now, there is no excuse.”
First, publishers will be required to disclose prices to professors, making the marketing process more transparent.
Second, the act will require publishers to offer items in a textbook bundle to be sold separately. All the extra study guides, CDs and more will not have to be purchased together.
Finally, colleges must provide textbook information for all courses before and during registration, not afterward. This lets students plan ahead to save money.
“Publishers have to comply with it, and universities have to take it seriously,” Durbin said. “They will understand the rights under the law and make them work for them.”
Durbin also called upon student groups on campuses to advocate for the law, and for all students use other, low-cost means of obtaining textbooks such as rentals, online shopping and more.
The IU Bookstore, for example, will begin its new textbook rental program this fall. After coming to an agreement with Barnes & Noble, many popular books will be available for rent, and new textbook prices will be lowered.
— Margaret Ely