Textbook price control bill dies

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Many students have felt the sting of swiping their debit cards and shelling out hundreds for textbooks each semester.

With the goal to save students money, Rep. Fred C. Cox, R-West Valley, proposed the “Higher Education Textbook Fairness Act” last year. The bill would require institutions of higher learning to compare textbook bids from various publishers. After facing opposition and alternatives, Cox abandoned the bill.

As chief sponsor of the bill, Cox said he proposed the bill with the goal of saving students money by changing the way textbook sales work.

“I was talking to a student and they reminded me that they felt like the textbooks situation was unfair as far as they were concerned,” he said. “They felt like the books were too expensive and once you bought it, a newer version would be required so then what you purchased couldn’t be turned around resold.”

The “Higher Education Textbook Fairness Act” states that before a college or university can require a student to buy particular written materials for class, the institution is required to solicit bids from publishers for comparable books on the same subject.

“If an institution of higher learning selects a textbook from a publisher that did not submit the lowest bid, the institution shall provide reasoning for the selection in a memoranda made publicly available on the institution’s website,” the bill reads.

Representative Cox said the bill would not have necessarily applied to a private university such as BYU.

“With a private school like BYU, I’m not sure if there would be a direct effect other than if you create competition among the new books,” he said. “If [the publishers] are selling a book at the University of Utah for one price, they’re not going to turn around and sell it at a higher price to BYU.  So, it wouldn’t directly affect BYU but it could have influenced it just simply because of the free market system.”

At the time Cox was running his bill, he received comments from the Board of Regents for the Utah System of Higher Education, saying policies were already in place to solve the same concerns.

[pullquote]”If that doesn’t solve the problem, then there’s nothing that would stop me or somebody else from running an additional bill to solve it,” he said.[/pullquote]

Approved in November of last year, the “R465 Course Materials Affordability” policy states each Utah System for Higher Education institution shall adopt policies, procedures, and/or guidelines that further efforts to minimize the cost of course materials for students while maintaining the quality of education and academic freedom.

Cox said he’s not sure if the Board of Regents’ policy will actually change things for students, but he’s hopeful.

“I’m not sure if we are getting everything I originally wanted, but instead of taking on the Board of Regents, I liked the idea that they are willing to help and make some changes on their own,” he said.

As a result, he recently abandoned his bill, hoping The Board of Regents policy would make the necessary changes.

“If The Board of Regents can solve it, then there’s no need to change the law,” he said.

However, he plans on staying close to the issue, ready to take action again if policies are not turned in students’ favors.

“If that doesn’t solve the problem, then there’s nothing that would stop me or somebody else from running an additional bill to solve it,” he said.

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