Paying for textbooks could put a dent in BGSU budget


BG Independent News

Bowling Green State University could take a significant financial hit if a state budget proposal requiring colleges to pay for students’ textbooks becomes law.

At a session of the BGSU Faculty Senate in late February President Mary Ellen Mazey said that even with the option of a new $300 annual textbook fee, the cost of providing textbooks would be significant.

Mazey reported that the estimates for state aid are a 1-percent increase this year with a freeze in the second year of the biennial budget.

She also expects a freeze on tuition and fees, other than the possibility of the new textbook fee. No one, she said, knows how much paying for textbooks would cost. “I’ve heard as low as $6 million and as high as $18 million. That could be a major, major budget cut if we go in that direction.”

She noted that the governor had already instructed universities to find ways to control textbook costs. As a result the university has surveyed what it now does to contain those costs and has formed a textbook affordability committee to study how the university could do more.

As reported to Faculty Senate late last year, it was clear the BGSU was already doing a lot to help reduce the cost of books for students.

The bookstore offers a price comparison program. The library had purchased copies of texts for some of the most popular courses with the most expensive books and makes them available for use in the library.

Students can also get books through OhioLink, a cooperative library system that connects higher education libraries in the state.

Some faculty have also opted to use older editions of books, which are available for much less, and then augmenting those with other materials to keep current. Some have also put copies of the books on reserve at Jerome Library for students to use.

The textbook committee, which is chaired by Ellen W Gorsevski, of the School of Media and Communication, is seeking more information about how much textbooks cost.

She shared notes from the committee’s first meeting.

Part of the problem is that texts, including bundled online course content, and other supplies tend to get lumped together. The $300 fee is far short of the estimates of at least $600 a semester.

The committee is considering getting estimates of textbook costs for each major, since these vary.

Among the other ideas considered are providing grants and release time to faculty to develop open source online course material that would be available for free to students.

The committee also talked about finding donors to support collections of open source material, and name those collections for the donors.

Amanda Dortch, the president of undergraduate student government, told Faculty Senate that they are also looking into the cost of textbooks. They expect to have a report this spring.