Course packets put added strain on student finances

Geoff Ziezulewicz

At the beginning of each University semester, students face a long-standing, sometimes unexpected addition to the ever-increasing book load — course packets.
Course packets often contain supplementary readings that can empty a student’s wallet, especially when required for multiple courses.
Eric Slee, a junior political science major, knows all too well about the high costs of course packets. Slee paid $65 for a sociology packet and $55 for a political science packet.
“It’s ridiculous. Some courses have you pay a lot for textbooks, then top on a course packet,” Slee said.
Many students are bothered by the high price of these plastic-bound, photocopied volumes. Packet prices can exceed book prices in some cases. Slee attributed the problem to “copyrights, red tape and some guy who wants to make an extra dollar.”
Lois Williams, University copyright administrator, said packet prices are determined by the cost of photocopying the texts and the cost for royalties.
Williams said the cost of photocopying has remained constant, but royalty costs are determined by the publisher or rights holder — not by the University. These costs fluctuate term to term and can be as high as 20 cents per page.
Professors like sociology professor Evan Schofer use their discretion in choosing articles for their classes. Schofer recalled not using one article he wanted because of its $11 price.
But high royalty costs and the resulting extra charge for students are an unfortunate necessity for some areas of study. In fields like the social sciences, new materials are continually surfacing that are essential to class material.
“I prefer to assign very current readings to make students aware of the newest research and intellectual debates,” Schofer said. “The most recently published books tend to cost the most to take excerpts from.”
Professors might employ less expensive alternatives, but sometimes no such substitutes exist.
Attempts are made to dilute the cost for students. Many course readings are put on reserve so students can check them out for hourly increments.
Senior sociology major Tim Maloney believes that this alternative isn’t preferable to paying a high amount.
“It’s too inconvenient during midterms and finals when everyone wants to do the readings,” he said.
For most students the necessity for the packets outweighs their reluctance to pay the high prices.
“It’s a need,” Maloney said. “They could charge $100 and people will buy it.”
Royalty and price determination fall within the realm of U.S. copyright and royalty laws, and any price reduction will depend on if and when pertinent U.S. copyright and royalty laws are changed.