Book sticker shock

Students, colleges try to beat the high cost of texts
2010-08-23T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T11:01:42Z Book sticker shockBecky Pallack Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 23, 2010 12:00 am  • 

College is back in session, and students have a bigger voice than ever on the topic of costly textbooks.

University of Arizona students start classes today. Pima Community College students will go back to class on Wednesday.

Here are three new trends that students will see in the changing world of college textbooks.

1. Book prices are listed in class schedules - by law

Federal law now requires publishers to disclose textbook prices to professors and requires them to sell compact discs and other extras separately instead of as a bundle.

It also requires colleges to list the prices of required books on the schedules students use to choose classes. Students will notice these prices on the UA and PCC class-schedule websites for the first time this semester.

The government got involved with textbooks because it invests billions in federal student-loan programs, said Sen. Richard Durbin D-Ill., a textbook-affordability advocate. Those loans help students pay for books in addition to tuition and fees.

A more economical approach to textbooks means less cost to taxpayers and less student debt, Durbin said during a news conference this summer about the textbook provisions taking effect in this school year.

2. Students are campaigning for textbook cost awareness

Some members of the Arizona Students' Association asked their teachers to acknowledge that textbooks are a big expense for students and to pledge to use the same book for several years, making it more likely that the title will be available used or for rent.

Eduardo Atjian, a senior public-administration student and former student senator, said he got involved in the campaign because he was upset by the "misuse" of textbooks, such as requiring an entire book when only one chapter was used in class. Atjian estimates he spends $300 per semester on textbooks.

The faculty members whom Atjian talked to had mixed reactions, he said. Some were supportive; others said they didn't have time for this.

The students collected about 40 pledges from UA faculty members. The UA Faculty Senate also endorsed the pledge last fall.

3. Professors are beginning to try online textbooks or no textbooks at all

PCC chemistry professor David Katz has assigned the same edition of a textbook for several years in one of his classes, so all of his students are buying used books, which are less expensive.

He'll stick with it as long as enough used books are in stock, because new editions of that textbook have been issued with mostly cosmetic changes, he said during an interview in May.

Katz keeps a website for his classes at chymist.com It's loaded with tutorials, slides from lectures, reading assignments, lab experiments, links and extra information that's free to his students and anyone else who is interested.

He also teaches two courses without a textbook. Instead, he sends students to websites, does a lot of hands-on activities in class and asks students to print out some lab worksheets.

"I decided to teach without a textbook because I believe in hands-on learning. I'm just not equipped - yet - to teach the regular chemistry course without a textbook," Katz said. "I'm getting to the point where I'm approaching a textbook online.

"I'm not trying to put any publishers out of business," he said. "I'm just trying to supply information to my students inexpensively. I think it's cool.

"We're all trying to keep prices down for the students," Katz added. "It's kind of scary when the textbooks, especially here at the community college, cost you more than the course you're taking."

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 807-8012.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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