The day before move-in weekend is set for UCSB, a small contingent of students and faculty gathered Thursday at the campus UCen and urged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign a bill into law which would seemingly make college textbooks more affordable to students.
Senate Bill 832, also known as the College Textbook Affordability Act, would require textbook publishers to include the prices of their books in marketing tools and information sent to professors. Many times, professors will choose books based on content, but have no idea how much the book is setting back their students.
In some cases, said UCSB Associated Students President Stephanie Brower, once professors learns how much a given textbook costs, they will rework their syllabus and have students return books because “they’re so disgusted with the price.” Other students scour websites and libraries looking for a good deals. Brower also said that the average college student now spends roughly $900 a year on books alone – the equivalent of 20 percent of fees at a typical four-year school. And while the bill wouldn’t directly lower the costs of books, it would make professors more cognizant of their costs, and easier for them to shop around for a good price.
UCSB math professor Martin Scharlemann said that even in subjects such as calculus which haven’t changed much in 300 years, publishers will come out with new editions of virtually the same book, just so they can make money. “It doesn’t make much sense to come out with new books but they do,” Scharlemann said. Publishers sometimes just change the order of the chapters or some of the workable problems and call it a new edition.
The Association of American Publishers is against the bill, has been urging the governor to veto it, and instead support a bill which would require publishers to print the wholesale price on the books themselves and require differences between old and new editions to be printed on textbooks after 2010. But it “doesn’t get at the heart of the issue,” said Tessa Atkinson-Adams, UCSB chair of CALPIRG (California Student Public Interest Research Group). Atkinson-Adams said she the second bill will still require professors do a lot of research work on what the prices of books are.
UCSB Associate Dean of Students Carolyn Buford said the bill on the governor’s desk would further the school’s motto of “scholarship, leadership and citizenship.” State Sen. Tom McClintock was supposed to be attendance, but backed out Wednesday. He voted to pass the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Ellen Corbett and passed through the Assembly and Senate.
Similar press conferences were held throughout California Thursday in support of SB 832.