For the first time at USC, textbook lists will be added to the fall schedule of classes to allow students to check the prices of the required texts before they register for a class.
“It provides students with very useful information and encourages faculty to submit their textbook requests early,” said Ken Servis, the dean of Academic Records and Registrar.
The addition of textbook information is the result of Section 133 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which requires all schools to publish textbook information in their course catalogues as of July 1.
“This new law that’s coming into play has brought a new awareness to the whole textbook industry,” said Daniel Archer, the director of USC Bookstores. “It has opened a conversation with the faculty and their use of course materials.”
The addition of book lists to the schedule of classes is intended to help students who want to keep their textbook costs down. USC’s California Public Interest Research Group, which has long advocated lowering textbook costs, supports the new law and has high hopes for its success.
“The list of prices is a really good idea so people can actually choose classes that are less expensive,” said Lisa Zhao, the vice chair and textbook campaign coordinator for CALPIRG. “If the students choose their classes based on the price, the professors might become more aware of the prices of the textbooks they assign.”
Some students, however, are not sure the law will have much of an effect.
“It might make a difference for which [general education courses] somebody might take,” said Samantha Klein, a junior majoring in fine arts. “But other than that, your schedule is pretty much determined by your major, and for those classes you do not have the option of not taking them because of high textbook costs.”
With the inclusion of textbook prices in the course list, professors are now required to submit their book lists earlier. This, Archer said, should help increase the success of textbook buyback, since the bookstore bases its buyback procedure on the books being used for the next semester. Archer also hopes requiring professors’ book lists earlier will increase the number of used books available.
Archer did note, however, that the new policy could mean more students will turn to other methods of getting textbooks.
“I believe we run the risk of possibly losing sales because students will be able to go out and shop, but more power to them. I don’t want any student to have to pay more than they have to,” said Archer. “But having the book lists earlier has allowed us more time to get the used books in, which is better for students.”
The earlier deadline for professors to submit their book list does not prohibit them from changing their minds on their textbook selections, Servis noted.
“It’s a live list, so if there is any change it can be changed,” said Servis.
Though progress is being made toward decreasing textbook costs, some feel like there is more that could be done.
“It’s definitely not enough,” Zhao said. “Even if people know about the prices they can avoid some classes, but for some majors you cannot get around it.”
In its quest to provide alternatives to expensive textbooks, CALPIRG is orchestrating a large-scale book exchange program, Zhao said.
“You would put your books on a list, and then there would be an event hosted to buy books from the person instead of going to the bookstore,” she said.