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Task force presents textbook study

 by Matt Stone
 published on Friday, April 27, 2007

<b>BOOK REVIEW |</b> ASU President Michael Crow speaks at the Board of Regents meeting Thursday.  The textbook task force reported their analysis of textbook prices and in June will give universities recommendations on how to lower textbook prices./issues/news/701080
Andrea Bloom / THE STATE PRESS
BOOK REVIEW | ASU President Michael Crow speaks at the Board of Regents meeting Thursday. The textbook task force reported their analysis of textbook prices and in June will give universities recommendations on how to lower textbook prices.
 

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A task force educated the Arizona Board of Regents on the causes of rising textbook costs Thursday in the Memorial Union.

The board, which governs the in-state universities, started the task force in September.

Chaired by Ed Hermes, a student regent, the task force examined why textbook prices rise about 6 percent each year - almost double the rate of inflation.

In the 2005 to 2006 school year, the cost of books and supplies for the average ASU student was $948, according to a board report, up from $838 the year before.

"We wanted to focus on the price students paid," said Hermes, a 2006 ASU graduate.

The task force concentrated its research on four areas related to the cost: pricing versus cost, book orders by faculty, new editions and bundling.

In 2006, ASU students purchased 434,242 textbooks worth more than $21 million, according to a board document.

What surprised Hermes most, he said, was how big of a difference turning book orders in on time can make.

"I wasn't fully aware of the ramifications of not getting your book order in on time," he said.

In fall 2005, no ASU professors turned their book orders in on time, according to a task force document.

Without receiving book orders on time, bookstores can't buy back used ones from students to again sell - instead being required to order new, more expensive copies.

The average of ASU, NAU and UA book orders received on time was 3.2 percent - and if raised to 80 percent it could save students $4 million per year, Hermes said.

In another survey of faculty from the three universities, 62.7 percent said they thought their book order was in on time.

But to Marcus Ford, a humanities professor at NAU and member of the task force, the data seemed off.

"You'd think that even by accident somebody might get it in on time," he said. "It suggests there's something wrong with the data itself."

The data was checked and double-checked, Hermes said, but understood there were concerns in the faculty and members of the task force.

ASU President Michael Crow said the University would push faculty hard for prompt textbook orders.

"Overall I think it's important for us to look for efficiencies everywhere," Crow said. "But this is just a much more complicated issue than just textbook orders."

Another issue brought up by Hermes was using new editions. It doesn't seem necessary to continually switch calculus books, as the subject hasn't changed much in the past 100 years, he said.

Crow responded to the comment by saying there indeed had been changes in the subject material and that the effectiveness of the textbooks shouldn't be sacrificed.

"There are advances in all these fields," he said.

Faculty surveyed by the task force agreed with Crow when asked why they chose new or different materials.

The largest percentage, 42.7 percent, responded that new or different materials provided more current information.

In June, the task force will present a number of action items to the board that would try to derail the textbook prices, Hermes said.

Possibilities include holding the universities responsible for turning in book orders on time or textbook rental program, Hermes said.

Reach the reporter at: matthew.g.stone@asu.edu.



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