Senator Schumer seeks to lower textbook costs

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) spoke about the trend of rising textbook prices and outlined a plan to combat the problem at a press conference held at Hofstra University on Monday.

If successfully implemented on Long Island, the plan could go on to significantly reduce the cost of books at St. John’s.

“One of the major issues that stand between Americans and an education is dollars,” Schumer said. “We are here to announce a war on high textbook prices.”

His findings from research and analysis of Long Island schools suggest that students pay an average of $998 a year on textbooks. His “war” is aimed at lowering prices of textbooks with the introduction of the Affordable Books for College Act (ABC) that he plans to introduce to the Senate sometime very soon.

The premise of the idea is similar to a university-wide library program. In essence, university bookstores would order their regular textbooks in a large enough quantity that would allow everyone in the class to purchase one book, but at a fraction of the price students normally pay. At the conclusion of each semester the students would return the books and the cycle would continue.

Schumer’s team estimated that this system could wind up saving students about $75 million, which breaks down to approximately $600 per student. While these numbers relate to Long Island schools, Schumer said that city schools were also a priority and would – if the program was effective on Long Island – benefit as well.

The program faces reluctance from schools because of the initial cost. To help offset the cost, Schumer has made provisions for loans to be distributed among schools to help them get the program off the ground. Once the loans are repaid the money would be distributed to other schools.

For the St. John’s community, the cost of textbooks has consistently hit students’ wallets hard year after year.

The campus bookstore changed from Barnes and Noble to the Follet Company last year, and that has produced many changes in relation to price.

Though the changes are subtle, some students feel the difference in their pockets. Some of the disparities include Barnes and Noble offering a 5 percent discount at the register for all new books, as well as different items located in the store. While Follet may have improved the aesthetics of the bookstore, the lack of discounts and the scarcity of a lot of required books has driven students to Ed’s Bookstore, located across from the University.

This is not the only plan that Schumer has in mind for alleviating the cost of textbooks for college students. He also plans on making the cost of certain expenses deductible.

“For the first time ever, this proposal would let parents or students deduct the cost of their books from their taxes,” Schumer said. “This means real dollars and real savings for middle class families who have to beg and borrow to send their kids to college.”

Over the years, the price of textbooks has risen at about 6 percent while inflation is only about 2.5 percent.

“For the most part us as college students have a rough time paying for anything, and textbooks don’t make it any easier,” junior Dorian Liriano said. “When you have textbooks costing about $150 a piece it doesn’t help either. It’s just too much and I really don’t believe that these textbook [prices] have to be this high.”

The resentment towards textbook prices is not limited to just undergraduate students.

“I feel that they [textbooks] are overpriced,” graduate student Gladymir Etienne said. “Especially since most professors do not use the textbook to its full extent, it’s pointless when we purchase a book for $130 and hardly use it throughout the semester. Anything to help reduce the price of textbooks would be welcomed right now.”