Taskforce to tackle textbook costs


Lauren Hamlin
The Broadside

Lawmakers in Salem are examining ways to reduce the cost of textbooks for students. The Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission will study the issue but change is not expected anytime soon.
In February 2012 at the Oregon Legislative Assembly, House Bill 4058—relating to higher education textbooks—passed.
“This House Bill enacted a task force and the end result of the task force is to create an Oregon Revised Statute that would address issues and mandate colleges to do things about textbooks,” said Taran Underdal, advisor to the Associated Students of Central Oregon Community College.
The act contains various plans looking at ways to make textbooks more affordable, accessible, and available for purchasing.

“The Higher Education Coordinating Commission shall convene a workgroup to examine and recommend adoption of strategies for making textbooks more affordable for students at all post-secondary institutions in this state,” as stated in Section 1.1 of house bill 4058.This bill was a follow up to the 2011 Oregon Revised Statute, defined by ORS 337.500 and ORS 337.511.
“A bill (ORS 337) passed last year…its goal was to have an impact on the high costs of textbooks. The purpose of [House Bill 4058] is to give more teeth to this bill,” said Underdal. “This new bill looks at all the other issues…and takes it one step further.”
Section 1 of this act will go into effect July 1, 2012. It does not include any immediate changes to the way textbooks are packaged or sold. There is the misconception this bill passing will automatically make the cost of textbooks cheaper, according to Michael Biermann, fiscal and operations coordinator for ASCOCC.
“What people need to realize is that this bill got the wheels turning, and hopefully a couple years down the road, we will begin to see the benefits of this bill,” said Biermann. “An endeavor such as this bill requires time and effort, and it’s not something we’re going to see change overnight.”
With the concerns around costs of course materials, ASCOCC members are inspired to find ways of making students more aware of textbook purchasing alternatives, according to Underdal.
“One thing I would like to see is a list of resources for students, to assist students in finding alternatives to purchasing books at the bookstore.” said Underdal. “Right now the bookstore is only in the business of physically selling a book.”
No actions have been taken for making options for lower cost textbooks easily available to students. The hope is with this act and the matter being brought to light, students will seek out alternative purchasing methods themselves.
“The cost of textbooks is really becoming an hindrance of students attending classes,” said Biermann. “So as a member of ASCOCC council, I’m happy to see the state taking appropriate steps to solve the problem.”


(Contact: lrhamlin@cocc.edu)


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