Bookstore, administration work to lower textbook costs

Textbooks are going to be cheaper for OSU students this year. (photo: Truen Pence)

Today’s college students juggle a myriad of rising expenses, from tuition and fees to the cost of housing. By the time they make their way to the textbook aisles of their college bookstore, they’re often faced with dwindling financial resources.

“It creates a cash flow problem for students,” said Susie Brubaker-Cole, associate provost for academic success and engagement.

Fortunately for students attending Oregon State, the University and the OSU Bookstore have joined forces to provide some relief.  Two programs, one from the OSU Bookstore and another from the Provost’s Office, are working in combination this fall to make textbooks less expensive for Oregon State students.

The OSU Bookstore, a student-governed nonprofit organization, is raising its student textbook discount from 8 percent to 10 percent. According to Steve Eckrich, OSU Bookstore, Inc. CEO, the Bookstore’s discount will save OSU students more than $1 million during the 2010-2011 academic year.

“Everything we do is oriented toward reducing the cost of course materials for students, which is why we heavily discount our textbooks, aggressively pursue used copies, and offer both digital textbook and textbook rental options,” said Eckrich.

The OSU Bookstore’s textbook pricing is now significantly lower than all but a handful of college stores across the nation, Eckrich said. He gives the credit to the thousands of alumni and fans that buy Beaver sportswear in his stores.

“When you buy your Beaver gear from the OSU Bookstore, you are directly funding increases in the textbook discount for Oregon State students.”

In addition to the Bookstore’s universal 10 percent book discount, OSU Provost Sabah Randhawa is providing funds to take an additional 15 percent off of certain textbooks for common first year experience courses, including a number of communication, writing, and math courses.

“These are the courses that touch the largest swath of students,” said Kent Kuo, university registrar.

Randhawa has pledged $110,000 to this targeted discount program, which will be in place for Fall Term only.

“It will have an immediate effect on 7,000 students, and then the next group buying those used texts will get them at a much reduced cost. Our hope is to see a full year of effect,” Kuo said.

Kuo said that high prices, and the frequency with which textbooks are updated and older texts made obsolete, is driven by the publishing industry. So within a few years of a popular textbook’s release, a new revision might mean students have an expensive text to purchase and no used copies available to make it more affordable.

“Students feel like they’re held hostage by textbook publishers,” Kuo said.

OSU students have tried to come up with other options, including trying to get one copy of every textbook used by OSU faculty on reserve in the library. However, that option limits the amount of time students have to use the textbook (typically two hours per check out for textbooks on reserve). It’s also cost prohibitive for the library. ASOSU has asked OSU to form a task force to look at the long-term possibilities for addressing the cost of textbooks.

“We know that families are under more and more stress to afford college, and any way we can provide relief to families and students is going to help our students persist here at OSU,” Brubaker-Cole said. “I think it’s really important that OSU is looking at all different angles of what constitutes the financial strain on students and their families.”

Eckrich, Brubaker-Cole and Kuo agreed that they’re happy that the OSU Bookstore and the University administration are finding ways to work together to make a positive impact on textbook affordability.

~ Theresa Hogue

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