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Tennessee Bill Seeks to Reduce Costs of College Textbooks


A bill moving through the Legislature would require the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Board of Regents to develop policies for minimizing the costs of textbooks for students.

Sen. Roy Herron, a bill sponsor, said he hopes such policies will make a significant dent in the cost of a college student’s education.

“The enormous and sometimes outrageous cost of textbooks is a severe impediment for many lower-income and even middle-income students,” Herron, D-Dresden, said.

The bill is awaiting a vote of the full Senate. House members have approved it.

The College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges found average costs of books and supplies for undergraduates at public institutions to be $850 for two-year public institutions and $942 for four-year public institutions.

A yearlong review by the Board of Regents, which oversees six state universities, 13 community colleges and 26 technology centers, found some costs in Tennessee to be even higher. The board found that in 2005-06, the average annual cost of textbooks for freshmen at Chattanooga State Technical Community College was $1,475.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga junior Harold Hill, 21, a finance major from Memphis, said he spent about $475 last semester for four books. He said he’s shared books with friends to save money.

“I’ve had other friends that buy books, Xerox them and return them because they’re so expensive,” he said.

The legislation recommends college bookstores to give faculty members an estimate of textbooks costs for each course. It also suggests that textbooks packaged together be available for individual purchase as well.

The bill’s recommendations mirror suggestions made by the Board of Regents after its textbook price study.

“Quite frankly, the publishing industry is a big industry, and we have to have some cooperation from them to do some of the things we want to do, so having legislation helps in that regard,” said Paula Short, Regents vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Hank Dye, University of Tennessee vice president for public and government relations, said the legislation would not have a significant impact on the UT system because many of the policies already are in place.

“The faculty should be encouraged to and free to find the best material that’s most appropriate to what they’re trying to get done, but they also have the understanding that it needs to be done with the least cost impact to the students,” he said.

Associated Press

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