Renting texts could lower price burden

Jessica Rothschuh

The average student spent $832 on books and supplies for the 2004-2005 academic year, reported the College Board, a not-for-profit membership association.

During times of increased higher education costs and decreased state and federal funding, increasing textbook prices are seen by some legislators, special interest groups and universities as an unnecessary burden added to students’ bills.

Several universities in the country are remedying the situation with textbook rental programs.

About 25 colleges nationwide have recently implemented the programs, according to University Business magazine.

The programs work by charging students a fee, included in their tuition, to rent books for the entire semester. Students may opt out if they chose.

But to save money schools must first invest money, and starting a program isn’t cheap.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s program began when the college did, about 30 years ago, said King Lambird, manager of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s textbook rental program.

“It usually takes getting a loan,” Lambird said.

Over spring break, Undergraduate Student Senate’s Executive Director Gary Broadbent and Sen. Bill Ross went to Washington to discuss the rising costs of higher education and textbooks with legislators.

Upon returning, Ross was interested in proposing the idea to university administration as a way to cut costs over time but said he did not think it should be implemented immediately because of potential debt, he said.

One reason programs such as Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s are hard to keep going is because teachers are under pressure from textbook companies to change editions frequently.

To make the program cost effective, Lambird said his program has a three-year adoption rule, which means teachers must keep each edition of a book for at least three years. Exceptions, however, are made for classes like technology and computer science.

Two bills introduced into the House of Representatives recently have dealt with the rising cost of textbooks. One introduced in November 2003 by Rep. David Wu calls for the General Accounting Office to “conduct an investigation of the high price of college textbooks.”

Rep. Tim Ryan introduced the second bill in April 2004 to amend the federal tax code to “provide a tax credit for the costs of college textbooks.” Both bills are still in committee.

Contact student politics reporter Jessica Rothschuh at [email protected].