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The Daily Tar Heel

Committee Prepares to Suggest Changes to Textbook System

Prices and buy-back process are key topics.

Student Congress established the textbook committee in April in response to student complaints. The committee found that many students were frustrated by the prices of new and used books at Student Stores and the perceived low buy-back prices for the books at the end of the semester.

Committee member and senior Brad Overcash said the committee met recently with a representative from Student Stores to determine why books are so costly and why the buy-back prices are so low.

Overcash said the buy-back prices are not in the hands of Student Stores, but UNC professors.

The committee learned that Student Stores will pay more money back to students for textbooks being used again the following semester. Overcash said the problem is that many professors don't report the books they will be using until after the deadline has passed.

"It's not Student Stores marking up texts like a lot of people think," Overcash said.

He said the committee is trying to assemble information packets for professors that would explain why they need to declare what books they will be using ahead of time and how much money this would save students.

There is not a comparable solution to solving the problem with high-priced new textbooks, Overcash said, because of the scholarships that Student Stores has attached to textbook sales.

Each year part of the proceeds from textbooks sold in Student Stores is given as academic scholarships to students.

"As far as new book prices go, the only way to cut prices is to eliminate the scholarships," Overcash said. "Student Stores is not interested, and student government is not asking."

Although the committee cannot cut the price of new books, it has come up with several ideas to help students avoid unnecessary payments.

Overcash said textbook makers print new editions each year by making small changes in layout to thwart the used book market. But now the textbook makers also are adding CD-ROMs and supplementary material to books that must be wrapped with shrink-wrap. Student Stores' policy does not allow it to buy back books with the shrink-wrap broken.

The textbook committee is proposing that a check box be added to professors' information packs so they can tell Student Stores whether they need the supplements. "If the professors say the stuff isn't necessary, Student Stores will be able to buy the book back," Overcash said.

He also said the committee has other ideas in the works, all of which will be reviewed by Student Congress on Oct. 30.

The committee hopes to implement them in time for spring book sales, Overcash said. "These are real things we can get done," he said. "They're not just pipe dreams."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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