Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

WV State News

November 23, 2013

WVU committee looks into costs of student books

MORGANTOWN (AP) — WVU is trying to control the cost of textbooks.

Some efforts have been successful.

One WVU official said many textbooks cost $200-$300, but there are some needed for some courses that might add up to $1,000 for the students.

“The costs of textbooks, as you know, has been skyrocketing,” said Russ Dean, senior associate provost.

Dean also serves as chairman for the university’s textbook affordability committee. The group is made up of administrators, faculty and students. Dean provided an update on some of the initiatives at a recent meeting of WVU leaders.

The committee is working on various initiatives and programs, Dean said. One of those is developing guidelines for faculty about when they should use custom textbooks for their classes.

Dean said that once a text book is customized — either by adding or removing material — it can no longer be sold on the used-book market. That impacts the students who no longer can buy a cheaper version of the text.

Past chairman of the Faculty Senate and committee member Michael Mays said that the university often talks in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. But, textbooks are often in the hundreds of dollars, yet still have a big impact.

“Those hundreds of dollars really make a difference day to day in the life of the student,” he said.

They want faculty to make decisions based on academic criteria, but sometimes there are alternatives that can save students a lot of money, Mays said. One way is to see if materials can be distributed as handouts are available online.

Another method is ensure faculty make timely decisions on which books to use so the WVU Bookstore can follow its buyback procedures.

For many classes it’s easy to find textbooks from $200 to $300, Mays said.

Provost Michele Wheatly said the highest she has seen in her role is $1,000 a semester for some business programs.

“That’s unaffordable,” she said.

Faculty representative to the Board of Governors Lisa DiBartolomeo said the committee has raised awareness across campus. She said a lot of faculty don’t think about the customization and that the book can’t be resold. They also don’t think about the effect it can have on students if they miss the textbook deadline.

About 59 percent of WVU faculty selections were made by the fall 2012 deadline and 92 percent by the spring. Both are far ahead of the national pace.

“We want to continue to improve, but we’re still doing a lot better than most,” Dean said.

Textbook rental, used textbooks and digital textbooks are all significantly cheaper than new textbooks.

In the spring of 2013, new textbooks made up 80 percent of sales for the WVU Bookstore. That is down from 82 percent the previous spring. Dean said in the numbers they have seen this year they continue to see the decrease.

Digital textbooks still make up less than 1 percent of sales, but Dean said he expects to see exponential growth in that area in the next three to five years.

Student representative to the BOG Ryan Campione said that he has purchased a digital book and found it expired after 180 days.

Manager of the WVU Bookstore David Lang said digital rights management depends on the author and publisher. As more texts move into that medium it will be up to publishers to determine how to address that issue.

— Alex Lang writes for the Dominion Post in Morgantown.

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