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Florida Senate shoots down textbook affordability bill

Proposed legislation could have lowered book prices for UCF students

By Danielle Hendrix, Copy Editor
On June 8, 2014

The Floirda Senate struck down the  “Postsecondary Education
Textbook and Instructional Materials Affordability” bill.

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Although UCF’s tuition rates will stay the same next year and parking hang tag prices will decrease, textbooks are a different story.

After a bill promising the reduction of textbook prices at U.S. colleges and universities was shot down in the Florida Senate recently, students may still feel some financial stress.

CS/CS/HB 355, “Postsecondary Education Textbook and Instructional Materials Affordability” — similar to the proposed Affordable College Textbook Act initiated in Illinois — was filed in Florida on Dec. 2, 2013, by Rep. Elizabeth Porter and passed unanimously in the House of Representatives. It was then referred to the Florida Senate’s education committee on April 22, 2014, but died May 2 in the education committee.

The bill, according to the Florida Senate website, would have: require[d] [the State Board of Education] and [the Board of Governors] to adopt textbook instructional materials, affordability policies, procedures and guidelines; provide[d] requirements for use of adopted undergraduate textbooks and instructional materials; require[d] public postsecondary institutions to post in course registration system and on websites information relating to required and recommended textbooks, as well as instructional materials and prices thereof; and require[d] task force to research affordability issues.

An article by USA Today stated that textbook prices have jumped 82 percent since 2002 — raising nearly 6 percent each year — and students have noticed. According to a spring 2013 study by the Book Industry Study Group, 34 percent of students reported downloading course material from an unauthorized website, up from 20 percent in 2010. Thirty-one percent of students said they scanned or photocopied pages from other students’ books, up from 21 percent in 2010.

Additionally, “about one in four first-year students and one in three seniors frequently did not purchase required academic materials because of cost, says a 2012 study by the non-profit National Survey of Student Engagement,” according to the USA Today article.

While the reason for the bill dying in the Florida Senate is unclear, many students have voiced their thoughts and concerns regarding textbook affordability, even offering up ways to make paying for textbooks less financially strenuous on students.

“I would love if my textbooks DIDN’T cost more than a credit hour,” stated Rachel Stearns, a sophomore psychology major, on a Facebook page.

Kristen Burket, a senior business management major, echoed Stearns’ thoughts.

“One book was custom made by the professor and it costs [nearly] $400. No thank you,” Burket stated on Facebook.

UCF’s custom-edition textbooks were a common thread woven throughout many students’ concerns.

“ … One thing I’ve noticed is that often in some lower level classes, the professors will have their own textbooks that they or the university have written. Some examples of this are the ENC1101 and ENC1102, some COM1000 and some biology classes,” Stearns stated. “This doesn’t allow for students to go to outside sellers for the books and [it] requires the students to buy through the UCF bookstore.

“I understand that there is content professors want that is not in the books, but they could provide that information separate in a PowerPoint or PDF file.”

Some students said that if UCF uses custom-edition textbooks, it should implement better buy-back policies at the bookstore.

“I would like for the UCF bookstore to buy back UCF custom-edition books. It makes no sense that they won’t buy them back, when they’ll use the exact same custom edition the next semester,” stated Crysty Eschelbach, a sophomore criminal justice major, on Facebook.

Brenna Callahan, a junior environmental studies major, agreed, suggesting “a guaranteed buy-back program for at least 10 to 20 percent of the books, [for the] original price, [if they are] in good shape.”

“Don’t tell me you’ll give me $2 for a book in perfect condition, bought new, that was used once,” Callahan stated on Facebook.

Derek Davie, a junior computer science major, said he’d like to see UCF be more transparent when giving incoming freshmen advice on where to buy books.

“I’d like them to be held legally liable for the lie they tell all incoming freshmen — that the bookstore has the lowest prices on books,” Davie stated on Facebook. “I tell freshmen to look online, join UCF groups where a lot of people sell books, and to look at some of the local bookstores.”

Sammie Kasmirski gave her tips to get around paying high prices for textbooks.

“ … Use the website SlugBooks, as it pulls all websites that have the textbook you’re looking for with price comparisons to rent and buy. Sometimes, I have made money from buying from online and selling back to the UCF bookstore … ” said Kasmirski, a junior health sciences major, on Facebook. “I would also tell [students] to look into previous editions, as some courses’ newest editions are only offered at a ridiculous price in the bookstore, when [in reality] only a few words are changed.”

Breakdown of the Bill
CS/CS/HB 355 would have required public universities and colleges to:
• Prominently display textbook information for 90 percent of courses, two weeks before registration.
• Adopt textbook affordability policies and guidelines.
• Send reports annually regarding textbook costs to chancellors, SBE and BOG to be held accountable for affordability policies

 

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