The passage of the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act, which mandates universities to provide a list of texts corresponding to every course in the registration catalog, has left the university in flux as it seeks to comply with new textbook regulations.
Of Georgetown’s 2,119 undergraduate and graduate courses in the online catalog, approximately 52.4 percent (1,111) have textbooks listed. Around 15.7 percent (333) have books listed as “to be discussed”, meaning their titles are not available to students. Around 29 percent of courses (615) – mainly research, thesis or medical school courses – cannot be found on the website. About 2.8 percent of courses (60) don’t need textbooks.
According to Director of Media Relations Andy Pino, Georgetown has worked with Follett, which operates the university bookstore in the Leavey Center, to inform students of the required and recommended texts for classes. He said the textbook details are updated as the bookstore receives information from faculty members.
University Registrar John Pierce also said that the posting of textbook information is dependent on the cooperation of the faculty.
“As faculty members either order books through the bookstore or provide information on required or recommended material, they’re posted to that website,” he said.
As a result, not all courses in the Fall 2010 catalog included information about text prices at the time of pre-registration, and text prices continue to be missing while students finalize their schedules through the add-drop period.
Passed by Congress in 2008, the HEOA is a higher-education reform bill that imposed regulations to increase affordability of college textbooks. The act, which went into effect this year on July 1, stipulates that colleges provide a list of required and recommended textbooks for each course in the catalog students use during registration, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Every textbook listed must include the International Standard Book Number or other identifying information, as well as the retail price.
“Under the textbook disclosure provision of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), universities are required, to the maximum extent practical, to provide students with information about the required texts and materials that will be used in courses,” said Pino.
These provisions were enacted by Congress to help alleviate the financial burden of college students. According to The New York Times, college textbook prices rose an average of about 6 percent – twice the rate of inflation – from 1986 to 2004. Georgetown’s estimated cost of attendance allots $500 per semester to purchase textbooks, totaling $1,000 per year in addition to tuition, room, board and additional fees.
“The responsibility of the registrar’s office was to see to it that the information provided by the faculty is made available to the schedule of classes, and that we have done, because there is a link with each course that takes you to the textbook site,” said Pierce.
Pierce asked that students check class syllabuses online as well as the textbook site for reading lists.
“This is the first semester in which this new system is being used,” Pino said. “As with any new system, we will make adjustments as necessary.”
Although the requirements outlined by the HEOA are aimed to ensure students are aware of the costs associated with a particular course, giving them additional time to search for the cheapest books, as well as consider rental or e-books, some professors at Georgetown seek to alleviate costs in other ways.
Government professor Patrick Deneen assigns only original texts, not textbooks. “In choosing such texts, I strive to assign affordable books, but ones that are well produced and can last,” Deneen said. “I encourage students to buy new copies and to keep them, rather than selling them back.”
The act calls for a new Government Accounting Organization report by July 2013 to examine the impact of the textbook provisions to the Higher Education Opportunity Act.