House of Representatives
Office of Program Research
Higher Education Committee
This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.
Brief Description: Requiring disclosure of certain information relating to higher education course materials.
Sponsors: Representatives Armstrong, Upthegrove and Wallace.
Staff: Andi Smith (786-7304)
In 2008, a survey of California and Oregon students indicated that, on average, students pay roughly $900 per academic year for course materials. A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that since 1986, textbook prices have nearly tripled, increasing by 186 percent. The GAO reports that the price of textbooks has increased in recent years largely due to increases in costs associated with new features, such as Web sites and other instructional supplements. Publishers told the GAO they have increased their investments in the development of supplements to meet the demands of a changing postsecondary market. Keeping current with consumers often entails reissuing editions with modernized text, graphics. According to a study conducted by the Public Interest Research Group, the average release time between textbook editions is 3.8 years. The price of the average new edition was found to be increasing at twice the rate of inflation compared to the previous edition. The survey also found price increases as high as 21 percent between editions, more than three times the rate of inflation.
In some cases, new editions are "bundled" and packaged together with supplemental content like workbooks, DVDs, CD ROMs, or Web-content. According to a study conducted by the Public Interest Research Group, the bundled books surveyed were 10 percent more expensive than their unbundled versions, with examples of price differentials of up to 47 percent. The same survey reported that 50 percent of all bundled books did not have an accompanying unbundled version on the shelf. Many students are buying both used and new books from sources outside the affiliated campus bookstore. Web sites like Amazon, ECampus, and Cheapest Textbooks are increasing in popularity, as is sourcing books from overseas Web sites, where the prices may be significantly cheaper for new books, though doing so means longer shipping times and no return. Each of the six public baccalaureate institutions in the state is affiliated with a bookstore. In 2006 the Legislature passed Substitute House Bill 3087 to give students at public four-year institutions more choices when purchasing educational materials and to encourage faculty and staff to work with bookstores and publishers to implement the least costly option to students without sacrificing educational content. In 2007 the Legislature passed House Bill 1224 which added community and technical colleges to the list of schools covered by the 2006 legislation.
In 2008, Congress passed the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which amended and extended the Higher Education Act of 1965. The act included specific provisions regarding text books in three areas. The act requires:
publishers to disclose pricing information up-front to faculty;
publishers to offer textbooks and supplemental materials “unbundled” (separately); and
institutions, to the maximum extent practicable, to provide the prices and ISBNs of required and recommended textbooks when students register for classes.
Summary of Bill:
Affiliated bookstores are required to disclose information on required course materials at least four weeks prior to the start of the class for which the materials are required. Course material information includes title, author(s), edition, price, and International Standard Book Number. This requirement may be waived on a case-by-base basis.
Fiscal Note: Requested on January 19, 2009
Effective Date: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.