July 2004 Archives
Film major Nile Franklin spent about $700 on textbooks last year at SF State.
When she tried to sell back the textbooks at the end of the year, the bookstore bought less than half of her books. Franklin was told many had been replaced by new editions or could not be returned because the shrink-wrap had been removed. She received less than $100.
“It’s not like I’m going to use these books for the rest of my life,” 18-year-old Franklin said. “It’s for a couple of months.”
California students, already dealing with tuition and fee hikes averaging 12 percent to 14 percent each year, have complained that textbooks are another unfair financial burden. Those complaints prompted the California Public
Interest Research Group, or CALPIRG, to survey 521 students and 156 faculty at 10 California and Oregon campuses. Their report, released in January, found that college students spend an average of $898 per year on textbooks, an equivalent of 20 percent of the cost of tuition and fees.
The report, entitled “Ripoff 101: How the Current Practices of the Textbook Industry Drive Up the Costs of College Textbooks,” cited several reasons for the high cost including books “bundled” with CD-ROMs and workbooks, new editions that make used textbooks obsolete, and the lack of awareness by faculty of the cost of the books they require for their courses.
Merriah Fairchild, the author of the report, said one of the easiest ways publishers could reduce the cost of textbooks would be to sell them “unbundled,” which could reduce the cost by almost half. Fairchild also said publishers release new editions of texts too frequently and with few significant changes.
The CALPIRG report was unfair to book publishers, according to Bruce Hildebrand, executive director for higher education of the Association of American Publishers. He said textbook publishing is an easy equation of supply and demand: the high cost of research and printing drive up the prices for a small market of sales where 40,000 copies sold qualifies a textbook as a best seller.
“The prices are fair and the books are the platinum standard in the world,” Hildebrand said. “Students can feel comfortable that they are getting the best possible price because no one is able to take advantage of the situation because the market is so competitive.”
If publishers could afford to offer cheaper textbooks, Hildebrand said they would. He said publishers are more than willing to sell textbooks any way the professors want them, whether bundled, unbundled or paperback.
“We don’t care where you’re from or who you are,” Hildebrand said. “If you would like to buy it, we’ll be happy to sell it to you.”
SF State business professor Norma Carr-Ruffino said the textbooks she authored, like “Making Diversity Work” and “Building Innovative Skills: The Creative Intelligence Model,” have been updated with the latest statistics and often with whole new chapters.
“For awhile you can update it in class,” Carr-Ruffino said. “But then you have people who adopted (the textbook) too and they like to see things up to date.
It’s sort of a matter of judgment. At what point is there enough new information that they really should have a new edition?”
Carr-Ruffino said she has never known the price of the textbooks she assigns.
“I know these things are expensive and I feel bad about it but I kind of consider it like fees and tuition. It’s part of getting an education to have materials,” she said.
Fairchild said professors don’t know the cost of textbooks because they never see the price. Textbook publishers send faculty free copies and marketing materials without a price list, she said. For example, students enrolled in Carr-Ruffino’s Business 682 class, Seminar of the Business Environment, will spend $156.30 on all new books and $117.30 for used books. Carr-Ruffino’s self-authored text is $27.70 new and $20.80 used.
So what can students due to save a few bucks?
”The most immediate thing the students could do would be to buy their books on an online book swap where they can buy them directly from each other,” Fairchild said. “That’s a great way that students can buy books for cheap and also they can make back money from their used books.”
Eve Pena, an international relations major at SF State, said she bought most of her textbooks for last year online at Half.com, where students can buy and sell directly to each other. She spent about $200 and found one book for $27 online. It cost $40.50 at the bookstore.
Other websites like Amazon.com/UK and DirectTextbook.com allow students to purchase books from overseas wholesalers and resellers, where they are often sold at half the price. Hildebrand said piracy, which publishers estimate total some $500 million in lost sales each year, and a lower standard of living force publishers to offer textbooks at much lower prices in order to compete in overseas markets.
While college bookstores owners favor used books, they aren’t as keen on the idea of students purchasing texts online.
“It does cut the bookstore out of the equation,” said Jennifer Libertowski, spokeswoman for the National Association of College Stores. “Money spent on sites like Amazon is money out the door but money spent in the bookstores goes back into campus initiatives.”
Fairchild said students can also check out textbooks from the local public library or work with their student body association to start a book rental program on campus.
State and federal legislators are also trying to find ways to help students save on textbooks. A state Assembly bill currently before the California Senate would encourage publishers, college bookstores and faculty at CSUs and UCs to consider the cost to students when assigning, purchasing and selling textbooks.
The bill, AB 2477, has no enforcement power. But Bruce Hamlett, chief consultant for the state’s Assembly Higher Education Committee, said it is the first step in creating more awareness about the high cost of textbooks.
“The conclusion we’ve gotten is there is a shared responsibility for addressing the issue with publishers, faculty and bookstore owners,” Hamlett said. “All three have a role in trying to reduce the price and accessibility to materials.”
In October, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, D-New York, released his own study that found college students in New York pay an average of $922 for textbooks each year and proposed a federal income tax deduction for the expense.
The U.S. Congress’ Committee on Education and the Workforce is currently investigating the high cost of textbooks for the General Accounting Office. A full report is expected in November.
Students returned to SF State with a lot less money this Fall as another round of tuition and fee hikes take effect.
The sudden spike in costs over the last year – at a university system known for its affordability – was the most dramatic the CSU system has seen in two decades, and it has added financial woes to many students who already have full schedules.
“It’s effecting me rather profoundly. I’m having problems affording food,” said sophomore Katrina Kiapos, 19. “It’s pretty unjust actually. Education is supposed to be essential.”
California’s fiscal problems have repeatedly hit the higher education in the gut over the last year. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s original budget forced the CSU system to cope with almost $240 million in cuts.
In May, the CSU Board of Trustees approved increases of 14 percent for undergraduates, 25 percent for graduate students, and 20 percent for credential candidates.
Fulltime, non-resident students were the hardest hit. Their tuition rose nearly $2,000.
“That still makes us one of the cheapest deals in the country,” said CSU spokesperson Colleen Bentley-Adler. “To maintain quality, we have to increase student fees.”
An undergraduate taking at least 12 units for the Fall 2004 semester paid $338 more than last year, and fulltime graduate students’ fees went up $600 from Fall 2003.
CSU fees hadn’t changed this drastically since 1993 when pre dot-com California was slammed by recession. Undergraduate fees more than doubled from $531 to $1,070.
“The state budget was so bad that we were laying off thousands of faculty and staff,” said Bentley-Adler. “Traditionally, when the state coffers are low, raising fees is always an option on the table.”
Anastasia Blum works on campus to manage her way through graduate school.
“When you look around, it’s obvious the school needs more money,” said Blum, an English literature major. “Whether it comes from the students or the government is a tougher question.”
The state currently subsidizes about 78 percent of CSU costs, according to Bentley-Adler, and the Trustees are currently working on a long term fee policy which could prevent sudden price hikes.
“The walkout last semester was a good example of how we have the power to change,” said 18-year-old sophomore Taliya Cohen. “Change has always come from the people on the streets.”
Westly McGaughey waited for 30 minutes outside the Malcolm X plaza one summer evening, expecting to meet with fellow college-aged Democrats to brainstorm ideas on how to get George W. Bush out of the White House. No one showed up.
For McGaughey, 22, who spent the summer activating the newly formed College Democrats club, this was one example of miscommunication in the political arena. “I left work early, made a few calls and was surprised that no one showed up. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done.”
Many students typically spend their summer break taking classes, going on vacation or working to earn extra income. A number of others, however, are active members of political groups on campus that have been working grueling schedules to have their chosen presidential hopeful elected this coming November.
Historically, SF State has been a politically active campus. In 1968, students held protests against the Vietnam War, which eventually led Vietnam War, which eventually led to the creation of the Ethnic Studies department. Earlier this year, an estimated 1,500 students held a walk out in protest of the school budget cuts agreed to by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California State University (CSU) Chancellor Charles B. Reed.
The campus is known internationally for its diverse population of both students and opinions, which is evident through organizations running the gamut – from the College Republicans to the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and the now defunct Campus Green Party. Others, including the Students Against War and the newly formed College Democrats club, all vie for the attention and votes of students at SF State.
The 160-member strong College Republicans have endorsed the reelection of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for the November ballot.
Political science major Carlos Zepeda, 21, spent his summer campaigning for the Bush-Cheney team and is also in charge of member recruitment on campus.
“There hasn’t been much activity this summer on campus, but many of our members have been volunteering for the Bush campaign,” said Zepeda. “For the fall, we’re trying to get (Democratic Senator Barbara) Boxer to debate against her Republican opponent at SF State by October,” he said.
“For the first couple of weeks, there’ll be a focus on recruitment because there are new freshmen students,” said Zepeda. “I’d like people to vote for Bush, of course, but I can’t change anyone’s mind,” he said.
The GOP platform opposes same-sex marriage, and supports the continuation of Iraqi occupation, creating jobs through the “Jobs & Growth” bill as well as increasing military spending by $15.3 billion.
The College Democrats have endorsed Sen. John Kerry for president. McGaughey claims many college students should invest their vote in Kerry for many reasons.
“I was surprised and extremely frightened that SF State didn’t have a Democratic club,” said McGaughey. “After the (fall) session starts, we’re going to focus on member recruitment. We already have a web graphics designer, we’ll hold summer fundraisers and it’s an election year, so public endorsements,” he said.
In the heat of the SF mayoral race, the Campus Green Party led efforts to elect San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez.
After Supervisor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, defeated Gonzalez in a close race, former Campus Green President and Gonzalez Intern Grant Donnelly decided not to continue his involvement with the organization.
“I was just burnt out working with the Matt Gonzalez campaign and my energy was spent,” said Donnelly. “No one else picked up afterwards and I wasn’t interested anymore. The Greens are still important but not as viable,” he said.
Officially, the San Francisco Green Party endorsed David Cobb, a Texas lawyer, and Pat LaMarche, a talk radio disc jockey, for president and vice president.
The Green platform calls for immediately ending the occupation in Iraq, creating a living wage for all and eliminating the U.S. dependency on Middle Eastern oil through an energy policy which includes wind, solar and biodiesel technologies.
David Russitano, a student and organizer with the International Socialist Organization, has been working with fellow ISO members this summer to collect the 200,000 signatures needed to have their endorsement Nader on the Calif. ballot by Aug. 6.
“We need to defend his right to run and get him on the ballot,” said Russitano, to a group of mostly SF State students during a summer ISO meeting in mid July.
The Nader platform includes: increasing diversity in the workforce through affirmative action, and creating a seven-point plan to end poverty in the United States, which includes equal pay for women and holding many corporations responsible for fraud and employer abuse.
Calls and e-mails sent by Xpress to the Students Against War organization were not returned by press time. SAW was heavily involved in leading antiwar and anti Bush demonstrations at SF State throughout the past years.
Though all campus organizations have differing ideologies on the upcoming elections, Zepeda believes college students should register to vote and be active with the political process.
“People our age think politics doesn’t affect them, but it does,” said Zepeda. “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the important thing is to just vote.”
For more information on the Cobb-LaMarche campaign visit, votecobb.org
For mote information on the Nader-Camejo campaign visit, www.votenader.org