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Categorized | Paying For College

New Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) – Reducing Textbook Expense

Over the course of the next week or so, I am going to be introducing some different aspects of the new Higher Education Opportunity Act. More importantly, I am going to focus on the parts of the bill that impact you (and your checkbook) as it relates to the financial aspect of your college experience.

For those that don’t know, the Higher Education Act was initially put into law back in 1965. This expansive legislation tops out at 431 pages and provides guidelines for colleges and universities that must be followed if they are to maintain their eligibility for Title IV funding (Federal Works Study, Pell Grants, Direct Loans, SEOG, etc…). In the past year or so this legislation was completely revamped and all the new laws went into effect on July 1st. In most cases, this legislation is focused on benefiting the students and their families. In other aspects, it just ends up being a bunch of bureaucratic red tape that gets in the way of anybody getting anything done. All in all though, it impacts the world of higher education and ultimately the students (again.. mostly for the better).

Today I am going to focus on how HEOA is impacting Textbooks (and possibly what you will be spending on them).

In the past, finding out what textbooks you needed for a particular course was likened to the process involved to find out if Colonel Mustard was responsible for all the mischief caused in a game of CLUE. Meaning, you find yourself going in circles only to find bits and pieces of the information you need but never really getting a clear answer from anyone. Here are some sample “hurdles” encountered by students; the book titles are never complete in the course descriptions, the professors never told them all the “extra” reading material that is required for the course, and the edition of the book is undoubtedly always incorrect and heaven forbid you actually get an ISBN number…

What this meant to students before the most current HEOA is that they were kind of at the mercy of the college bookstore for all of their textbooks and they really didn’t have an opportunity to shop around at other discount retailers. Now that HEOA is in effect, all of this should now change.. How so you ask? Let me tell you…

Good News For You!

When students register for courses, the following two items must be made available to them (“to the maximum extent practicable”) at the point of class selection:

  • ISBN numbers for all books associated with the class: Now that ISBN numbers are available in advance, a student has the opportunity to get the book (the correct one) for a discount either through an online resource or potentially from one of their classmates that recently took the course.
  • Suggested Retail Price for textbooks AND supplemental materials: This is important because you can have two sections (taught by two different professors) of an accounting course available and immediately see that one is requiring $150 in books and supplies and the other one is only needing $75. Immediately you can achieve a $75 savings just by picking one section (professor) over the other.

Bad News For Colleges!

Very few colleges and universities seem to manage their own campus bookstores anymore. Most of these sites are outsourced to companies like Barnes and Noble and Follett. Since they are outsourced, the only revenue the schools get is usually some rental income for space they lease to the company and a percentage of the gross sales revenue (which is usually tiered.. meaning the more the bookstore makes, the more the college gets). With the implementation of HEOA and the new textbook provision, it seems to be very natural that campus bookstore sales will probably be taking a hit and therefore so won’t the school itself.

Ultimately, I think this legislation is going to be a mechanism to help bring textbook pricing under control. Anyone that has purchased textbooks in the past couple of years can attest to the inflated cost associated with these specialized books. I remember when I was in college paying close to a $100 bucks for a book once. I felt justified in the expense because the book was a hardback. Now I walk through the bookstore and I see the same prices for paperback… times have certainly changed. Anyway, I hope you find some benefit from this information and you take advantage of the changes in HEOA in regard to textbook pricing.

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