South Carolina senators approved legislation Wednesday that attempts to lower often-extravagant college textbook costs by providing a purchase policy for public colleges.
“What’s occurring is that students are paying outrageous amounts for textbooks because they are told to buy them,” Bill sponsor State Sen. Nikki Setzler, D- Lexington, said. “Then when they go to class they are never used,” said Setzler.
The proposed bill approved unanimously requires the Commission on Higher Education to establish guidelines on textbook adoptions for the state’s public colleges. Included in the guidelines are textbook information that must be provided to students at the time of registration which includes the ISBN and prices for each book. It also requires the list note whether a book is required or recommended and notes the professor must allow alternate books where possible.
Setzler held an unused textbook on the floor of the Senate as an example. “This book was required,” he said. “A student paid $120 for this book. It’s still in the cellophane,” Setzler said Wednesday afternoon holding the book in the air for senators to see. “The professor never used the book even though he made the student buy it.”
College textbooks frequently have triple-digit price tags and may also contain technology aids like a compact disc that can only be used for one student, eliminating the chance for a student to resell or buy used.
Setzler said the student was stuck with the book. “Now it’s out of print and out of date. So he can’t even sell it and get any money back,” said Setzler.
The legislation would require students to know exactly what textbooks that will actually be used in the classroom. “They would have to be told when they register for class what textbooks the professor wants and is going to be used,” Setzler said.
It also require that colleges “assess” the new policies have in slowing or reducing textbook prices. Those assessments must be publicly available on the college’s website.