The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime

For textbooks? Matt Hardigree doing some guest blogging over at Casa Bell:

For the majority of students in Texas, college provides a great lesson in how to balance your budget (amazing then, that the Republicans in the Lege can't do the same). Assuming you're able to get enough financial aid to cover your tuition, you still have to pay to keep a roof over your head, food in your stomach, gas in your car and books in your backpack. Keeping a roof over ones head can be done cost-effectively by living with one or twelve of your closest friends. Ramen was invented to keep the cost of food down for college students, I believe. Finally, one can always carpool, bike or bus to conserve energy. Books, however, come with a fixed price.

After looking to the internet, the used books shop and the library I can tell you from experience that most students are lucky to get one book for a reduced price. Last session, an initiative was put forth by a college students from our finest universities and proposed by Senator Judith Zaffirini and Rep. Aaron Pena to reduce the cost of textbooks by declaring a Tax Free Weekend twice a year for textbooks.

The bills, S.B. 222 and H.B. 257, followed the path of other worthy bills last session and never made it to the floor for a final vote. Thus, after passing a tuition deregulation bill in 2003 that caused a 23% rise in tuition for the average texas student over the last two-years the leadership in the legislature couldn't find the time or the will to help out students.

"This is one of the best ways the legislature can help students," said former U.T. Student Government President Brent Chaney when the bill was being considered. It is no shock, then, that it didn't go through.

Both The University of Texas and Texas A&M student bodies put their support behind the bill, proving once again the wisdom of not convening the legislature during college football season.

According to the State Public Interest Research Groups Report on textbook pricing, Rip Off 101, a survey by eBay showed that nearly 43% of students had skipped on purchasing at least one text book because of the price.

As I state over on the comments over there, I've seen students go in on a book(s) together. I've seen students look at their syllabi, plan out their book purchases by when the readings are due and hope that the bookstores didn't send back their excess books early. I've seen students check the library to see if their books were available there and then hijack that book because the libarary fines and fees would be cheaper than buying the book. I've even seen professors dig into their pockets and buy students their books.

I was always blessed enough to be able to be able to afford to buy my books at the beginning of the semester. However, it would've been nice if they were X dollars cheaper, and alot of my fellow students would've actually been able to worry about the class rather than worry about whether they'd have the instructional material for class.

There's some other stuff that needs to be thrown into the argument too. Namely the professors who make students purchase books for one or two chapters worth of reading, professors who decide to use their copying privileges only for their grad students, and universities who have to cut back on the amount of copies professors can make because of a lack of financial support.

But it's a good point to start off a discussion into how this state funds its institutions of higher education.