SPRINGFIELD – The state can help students save money on textbooks by requiring supplementary materials, such as workbooks and CD-ROMs, to be sold separately, state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, announced on Monday.
Jakobsson and Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn are pushing legislation this spring to require textbooks to be sold in both unbundled and bundled forms, allowing students to decide whether they want the extras.
"It is important that businesses are able to make a fair profit, but students should not be forced to buy expensive books and items that are not even required course material," Jakobsson stated in a written release.
University of Illinois students are supporting the measure.
"I think that it's an honest effort to save students money, and if it passes it will be a big help," said UI Student Senate President Josh Rohrscheib.
Rohrscheib said textbook bundling has become an increasing trend, putting a financial strain on students.
"One of the most common practices is to offer two or three supplements (wrapped together with a textbook) that alone may not have had enough educational value for a student to want to purchase," he said.
A 2004 study by State Public Interest Research Groups found that two-thirds of faculty members surveyed said they used the bundled materials "rarely" or "never." But a follow-up survey of required textbooks at the UI and 58 other schools showed that half of those books were sold bundled with other materials. And more than half of the bundled texts were not available a la carte.
"The cost of higher education is steep enough without having unscrupulous publishers putting Illinois students and their parents in worse debt," Quinn said in a written release. "Let's close the book on this shameful practice and give students the option to buy these materials without costly bells and whistles."
Richard T. Hull, executive director of the Text and Academic Authors Association, said he had not yet read Jakobsson's bill, but the group opposed similar legislation last year in Connecticut.
"This issue ought to be left up to the relationship between the publisher and the textbook author, rather than managed by legislators," Hull said. "For the Legislature to presume it knows better than either the textbook author or the publisher or the educator what is the optimal educational package is inappropriate."
Jakobsson's legislation was still in the House rules committee on Monday, awaiting assignment to a substantive committee.
More information is available at www.saveontextbooks.org, a Web site sponsored by Quinn's office.