How does higher education reform bill affect students and their textbooks?

It’s August and young adults everywhere are getting ready for college.  As the number of students enrolled in a college or university continues to increase, it is wonderful news that prices for textbooks should begin to decline.  The Higher Education Opportunity Act passed in 2008 became law effective July 1st and should help make textbooks more affordable. In the past, students had to prepare themselves for a chunk of change when they bought their textbooks for the upcoming semester.  Students could expect to spend on average $850 annually on textbooks and course materials, as reported by the Used Textbook Association.    Textbook prices have continued to increase, outpacing inflation by four times since 1994.

In response to the high cost of higher education the Student Public Interest has campaigned effectively to make textbooks more affordable.  They are applauding the new law and feel the textbook market will become more transparent.  To summarize:

  1. Exclusive bundling of “extras” within textbooks is no longer allowed:  Many times professors do not realize how much the “extras” cost, like CD’s and workbooks. Bundled textbooks can be 10-50% more expensive than the textbook alone.  Many times the professor will not even use the “extras”.   While publishers can continue to bundle, they must sell these “extras” separately.
  2. Publishers are required to disclose their prices so that professors will know exactly how much their course materials will cost.  This is especially important when a new edition is released.  Now professors can make informed decisions hopefully as advocates for lower costs to their students.
  3. Students will have advance notice on their course materials.  Beginning in 2010, schools will need to release the list of required textbooks with ISBN numbers, before school starts.  As a result, students will have the time and power to search out the best textbook option for them–be it buying new or used, renting, or dowloading e-books.

With the new law, options for purchasing textbooks have proliferated.  The college book store is not the only place for buying, selling, or renting textbooks.  Biblio.com is a great place to purchase textbooks.  Price comparison sites like Campusbooks, give students live links to the cheapest sellers for that specific book be it new, used or rental.  They even feature a buyback price tool which estimates total cost of buying the cheapest used textbooks and selling them back.

Biblio suggests buying used and selling back as the best way to save money.  The site partners with Chegg and has found that students can get up to 60% of book value when they sell back their booksChegg is recognized as the market leader in textbook buybacks.


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