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On-time orders may lower textbook costs

Citizen Staff Writer



TEMPE – University students may save money on textbooks because of efforts initiated by students, campus officials and the Arizona Board of Regents.

The conventional wisdom has been that campus administrators can’t lower the cost of textbooks. But students and campus officials, who have criticized publishing company pricing, provided information Thursday at the regents meeting on how money can be saved.

“Publishers are definitely setting the high costs,” said Erin Hertzog, UA student body president. “But our faculty can help us sidestep the publishing companies.”

The regents, through a recently formed textbook task force, found that only about 4 percent of faculty turn in their textbook orders on time.

This means students can’t sell their used textbooks back to bookstores so other students can buy them at a reduced cost.

Why? Because the bookstores need to know the used book will be used the next semester before it’s bought from students.

Currently, the average UA student spends $816 a school year on textbooks and supplies, the task force found.

Regents said they want to see the rate of on-time orders at 80 percent, which could save students upwards of an estimated $4 million annually at all three universities.

Regent Edward Hermes, who chaired the task force, said if that figure were at 100 percent, savings would be $6 million.

Several regents were confident the percentage would increase.

“We are going to have the 80 percent compliance,” said Regent Gary Stuart. “We brought this to (the attention of faculty) and a great many of them have no idea about the buy-back issue.”

Some regents considered putting pressures on publishing companies to reduce their costs. Other regents questioned why universities weren’t more quickly replacing textbooks with Internet resources. One regent mentioned the potential for policy changes at campus bookstores.

The task force, which is made up of students, regents, professors and administrators, will return to regents in June with an action plan, though some had concerns about the group’s findings.

Marcus Ford, who sits on the task force and chairs the Arizona Facilities Council, said faculty raised a few issues: Certain classes aren’t scheduled until after the deadline, not all classes are offered each semester and small class sizes have less flexibility.

“There are lots of complicating factors,” Ford said. “There is a sense that the focus was exclusively on the faculty, but perhaps there are some other mechanisms possible.”

Arizona State University and UA have already launched campaigns to educate faculty about the cost-cutting efforts.

UA student leaders are hosting a free event at 5 p.m. today to raise money for textbook scholarships. The event at the Marriott University Park hotel, 880 E. Second St. will include a presentation and a silent auction.

In other news:

• Regents High Honors Endorsement has new requirements for high school students to receive tuition scholarships. Students must do well on the AIMS exam and score a B or better in core classes, such as math and English. In addition, they need to either earn a 3.5 grade-point average or rank in the top 5 percent of their graduating class to become eligible.

• New UA programs – a doctoral degree program in women’s studies and a professional master’s level degree in economic geology.

• The appointment of UA professors Ofelia Zepeda, who teaches linguistics; Malcolm Hughes of the Tree Ring Lab and Michael Marcellin, who teaches in the electrical and computer engineering department, as regents professors.

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