This week a blog post on the University of Alabama Crimson White site talks about textbook prices and a new proposal to help students plan for the textbook expense. Recently poster John Brinkerhoff points out that the blog raised questions about the rising costs of textbooks for students, the practices of the SUPeStore, and the ethics of textbook publishing companies. While these concerns are understandable, John is not an economist or a SUPeStore employee, and can’t propose solutions to pricing; however, he am a student and can address an issue that exacerbates the already difficult situation for students: when the required textbooks for a course are posted.
Over the past seven semesters, John have registered for dozens of courses. For some, he knew what books to buy in late spring. For others, it was the middle of summer. Regardless of when he found out what books were required, all courses posted the books long after registration had filled up for most classes, forcing John to register without knowing what books were required.
John points out that as such, he was completely incapable of factoring cost into his course decisions. Even if the book list came out in the late spring, it was often too late to switch into a different class. For John, this was highly inconvenient, particularly when he was surprised by multiple three-figure textbooks in a non-required course; however, for other students, such as a peer of mine who is working through college and whose teacher added eight additional books a week before school started, it is just plain wrong.
A Novel Solution
Jake Eigner, an SGA senator and member of the Delta Chi fraternity, has given The University of Alabama an opportunity to rectify this situation. His proposal, which will be voted on in Senate this week, is simple: require the University to post textbook prices alongside course listings when students register.
Obviously, this plan would not stem rising textbook costs, nor would it be a silver bullet for the funding woes of college students, but it would be a fantastic step in the right direction. It would enable students to financially plan for the next year through course selection and reduce the number of sticker-shocked students who come to class without textbooks. Also, Eigner expressed hope that this policy would make faculty more sensitive to the cost of textbooks. As someone who has had to buy textbooks for a course only to find that they were never even used by the professor, I am in wholehearted agreement.