Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Textbook less baggage 

The reality check of the budget has put a crimp in the textbook windbaggage that the Minnesota Legislature has been trying to pass. No money for the project, just a bunch of unfunded mandates:
House and Senate negotiators Monday took another step toward controlling the high costs of college textbooks, agreeing to require publishers to disclose textbook costs, formats, return policies, and how much new editions differ from older ones.

...Higher education conference committee members also agreed that public colleges and universities in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system must meet annually with students, teachers and administrators to figure out how to reduce the costs of college course materials. Private colleges and the University of Minnesota would be asked to adopt the disclosure measures.
There might be money forthcoming if the conferees ever get budget figures from the other conference committees charged with setting budget targets. That money would go most likely to pilot textbook rental programs.

As I noted last spring, the problem here is one of an agreement between Professor A and Publisher B that B's textbook will be required of Student C in A's class. A might be made to talk with C about the cost of B's book and alternatives available, but will it be effective in influencing the conversation between A and B? I doubt it. The bill agreed in conference requires B to tell C what are his or her options in buying the book, but doesn't specify which options will have to be available. I suspect that will have to come after a discussion between A and the university, which is having a hard time attracting enough students to keep budgets stable.

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