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Law requires textbook prices to be shown during registration

Students can now view textbook prices via ACES prior to selecting courses. The change, beginning with Fall registration adheres to new legislation.
Students can now view textbook prices via ACES prior to selecting courses. The change, beginning with Fall registration adheres to new legislation.

As a result of newly enacted legislation, the cost of expensive books will no longer be a surprise on the first day of classes for future semesters.

In accordance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act, Duke now links to the title, author and retail price of textbook for all classes in ACES and STORM for use of students while selecting courses. The legislation required universities and colleges to list textbook information by July 1, 2010, though Duke began displaying this information earlier and in time for Fall 2010 class registration, said University Registrar Bruce Cunningham.

The legislation’s purpose is to ensure that students have access to affordable course materials and is supposed to increase transparency. Cunningham said the University Bookstore received book requests much earlier this year and was therefore able to secure more used copies of textbooks for students.

“Compared to last year, I felt like I had a much easier time finding my textbooks at reasonable prices,” said sophomore Kevin Carey, adding that he noticed the additional used copies of books. Used copies are especially important because in certain classes students hardly even use the books, he said.

Although Carey sometimes uses Amazon to buy used books, he said the bookstore is sometimes more convenient because he can more easily return books if he changes his courses at the beginning of the semester. Buying used books on Amazon also requires trusting the independent sellers that offer the books, he added.

For some students, textbooks remain expensive, especially for those that do not compare prices online.

Sophomore Sanjay Wunnava bought textbooks for BIO 101L: “Molecular Biology” on campus and said he spent more than $250 between the course’s book and a clicker required for class that allows the lecture’s more than 300 students to participate by answering multiple choice questions. Fortunately, the materials are not this expensive for the majority of his classes, he added.

But in addition to the newly enacted legislation, Lee Baker, dean of academic affairs for Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, said there is a movement among professors to use more affordable textbooks, said

“For the class I used to teach, we used to use multiple books, but now we only use one,” Baker said. “Professors are also comfortable using BlackBoard and other websites instead of textbooks. You have a lot more flexibility.”

Though some students prefer the textbook store, many also turn to the internet to find cheaper textbooks, Baker said. Administrators do want students to be able to get their textbooks for the cheapest possible price, he added.

Taylor Doherty contributed reporting.


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