University News

U.S. government requires textbook disclosure

Contributing Writer
Friday, November 5, 2010

As students registered for the spring semester, they may have noticed an additional feature available on the Banner Course Scheduler — the ability to view a list of the textbooks that they will require for each class.

“It’s a new requirement that the Congress has implemented as part of its 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act,” said University Registrar Robert Fitzgerald. “As of July 2010, we are required to make available, to the greatest extent possible, information regarding the required and recommended textbooks for each course at the time of students’ registration.”

All universities receiving federal aid from the government are mandated to follow this requirement, listed under Section 133 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act. The requirement was created to promote greater transparency and allow students to assess the total cost of each course.

At Brown, the registrar has worked together with the Brown Bookstore to make this information available to students.

“We have gone beyond the requirements by listing not only the title, author and ISBN, but also the new and used prices for the books at the Bookstore,” Fitzgerald said. “It is a great service to students.”

“I haven’t tried it out yet, but it would definitely be useful,” said Ramon Castillo ’11. “I could price the cost of a class and know beforehand if I need a $300 textbook for a class.”

“Before costs, I would consider the amount of reading for the class,” said Aida Haile-Mariam ’13. “I would reconsider taking a class that is not only expensive, but reading-heavy.”

The bookstore directly receives information about the textbooks required for each course from the professors. This requirement can pose a problem for some professors.

“Because registration takes place months before the start of the semester, professors don’t always have the information about which texts they will be using,” Fitzgerald said.

But in general, most are sympathetic toward the new requirement, recognizing that it is out of consideration for the students.

“A lot of us were starting to do it anyway. No one I know is really enraged by it,” said Professor of History Linford Fisher.

“It also makes professors give more thought to the books that they issue for the class,” he said.

Jack Wright, associate professor of psychology, said the requirement is not a major problem for him as he has been using the same textbook for several years.

“But I can imagine situations where it is not as easy … such as for a new course,” he said.

Professors receive gift cards from the Brown Bookstore for complying with the textbook information policy before the deadline.

The government is also expected to start auditing next year to ensure that universities are complying with the provision of the law.

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