Required reading should be affordable

Textbook prices have followed the same upward trend as tuition.

It seems like every year the Minnesota Student Association wants to lower textbook costs. These prices have been a problem and continue to be a problem. But now the U.S. Congress is moving toward making required reading more affordable.

The House of Representatives’ Education Committee proposed legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. Even state legislatures, including Maryland, have begun to take note of the rising costs of textbooks.

The federal Government Accountability Office released a study in 2005 that said textbook prices rose at twice the rate of inflation between 1986 and 2004.

And with the popularity of CDs and supplemental materials, bundling has become a common – and expensive – practice.

The House Committee’s bill would require publishers to unbundle materials.

It also requires publishers and colleges to be more transparent about costs. Though some states already require these standards of publishers, this bill could make it the requirement for every publisher and college in the country.

Publishers would have to clearly state wholesale prices, dates of previous editions, other formats of the book and the differences from one edition to another in promotional materials.

Colleges would have to include more details of every course in the printed catalog, including a list of all required and recommended materials.

Universities are supposed to be about sharing information and teaching their students to make educated decisions. This bill could help instructors and colleges choose appropriate materials and could help students make informed decisions about what courses to take.

The cost of attending this University has continued in an upward trend, and textbook costs have followed the same pattern. It’s time the people who can actually make this change make it happen.