Bill passes to ease textbook costs.
SALEM - College students may find it easier to swallow the cost of textbooks under a bill approved Wednesday by the Legislature.
The bill, which now awaits Gov. Ted Kulongoski's expected signature, is intended to free students from the burden of paying for CD-roms, workbooks and other items that are often "bundled" with the textbooks required by their professors. And it seeks to give those professors more information about the frequency of textbook updates and other cost-related factors they may consider when ordering textbooks for their students.
The passage of Senate Bill 365 was welcome news for University of Oregon student Mike Filippelli. The junior from Beaverton said he has felt taken advantage of by publishers who have charged as much as $80 to $100 for his textbooks as well as bundled CD-roms and workbooks that were never required by the professor, and frequently put out new editions so that used versions aren't viable cost-cutting alternatives.
"They're just really expensive. And it's money that cuts into paying for rent and food," said Filippelli, whose student loans total $22,000 so far.
The bill requires that publishers of college textbooks:
Provide professors and private and public colleges and universities with information regarding its products. This would include the prices and the frequency of updated editions of its textbooks.
Offer higher education institutions the option of ordering each component of bundled textbook packages separately and disclose the price for textbooks purchased without bundled items such as workbooks and CD-roms.
Sens. Vicki Walker, D-Eugene, and Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield, co-sponsored the bill at the request of the Oregon Student Association and Oregon State Public Interest Research Group.
Walker said she was floored to learn from a report to Congress by its nonpartisan General Accounting Office that textbook costs rose by 186 percent from 1986 to 2004. That came to an average of 6 percent a year. The prices for all goods rose an average of 3 percent each year in that same period.
Walker said she was hopeful that by ensuring that faculty know the costs and options when deciding which materials to require for students, they can make selections that are easier on students' wallets.
"They care about their students and understand their debt load," Walker said.
Surveys by OSPIRG and the OSA found that the average Oregon student spends $900 each year on textbooks.
The bill's two main provisions have been promoted in bills throughout the country and are similar to legislation being considered in Congress, said the OSA's Brett Rowlett.
So far, he said, the Oregon Legislature has gone the furthest in acting on such proposals by including both the bundling limitation and the disclosure requirements. "I believe we're the only state so far to pass both of them at the same time in the same bill," he said.