Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) Section 133 - Textbook Information

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Purpose & Intent (Section 133a)

Ensures students have access to affordable course materials by decreasing costs to students and enhancing transparency and disclosure with respect to the selections, purchase and use of course materials. 

Encourages all of the involved parties to work together to identify ways to decrease the cost of college textbooks while supporting academic freedom of faculty to select quality course materials. 

The "involved parties" include faculty, students, administrators, higher education institutes, bookstore, distributors and publishers.

Many of the "ways" described by Section 133 include timely and public communication of book information, as well as communicating to students the cost-saving strategies available.

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Terminology (Section 133b)

Defines key terminology used in Section 133, including college textbooks, bundles, custom textbooks, course schedule and other terms. 

For more information click on the 'full text' link at the bottom of this page.

Publisher Requirements (Section 133c)

Requires greater transparency on the part of publishers when providing information to faculty for the purpose of selecting course materials.

This includes wholesale and retail pricing, edition changes and history, and formats available (paper, hardcover, electronic). This also addresses the practice of “bundling” course materials into packages which has the effect of reducing used books available as well as information about “custom” textbooks.

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Provision of Textbook Information in Course Schedules (Section 133d)

Requires disclosure of book information, linked to the schedule of classes, before students being registration for a given semester.   

In July ,2010 the Bookstore worked with Registration & Records to implement a direct link from the schedule of classes to the Bookstore’s online textbook information site. As soon as book requests are submitted to the Bookstore, they will be processed with 24-48 hours and available on the web page within 15 minutes of data entry.

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Availability of Information for College Bookstores (Section 133e)

This provision requires institutions to provide complete and accurate information about course materials, supplementary materials and course-required supplies upon request of the Bookstore.

Faculty and academic departments already make MOST textbook information available to the Bookstore at some point, but the opportunity to improve relates to the timing of the book requests. HEOA: “…as soon as is practicable upon request of…bookstore…” The intent of this requirement is to improve timeliness of book requests to allow bookstores sufficient time to source textbooks at the lowest possible prices, including the end of semester buyback process that involves BGSU students, an indirect impact on textbook affordability because of the money returned to students. The IDEAL standard is to have all book information on file BEFORE students register for classes so they know the full cost of the course materials required for a given class. Currently, it is estimated that only 15-20% of book requests are received in that time frame. Most faculty members are unaware of the need for timeliness in the Bookstore’s sourcing process and the impact upon the cost of textbooks for their students. Although the Bookstore already solicits book requests from faculty and academic departments prior to the student registration period, the compliance is inconsistent and may depend in part upon the timing of assignment of faculty to classes and required course preparation.

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Additional Information (Section 133g)

This provision requires institutions to disclose information to students about renting textbooks, buying used books, guaranteed buyback programs, alternative content delivery (i.e. e-books, open source, etc.), and “other available insitutional cost-saving strategies.

The Bookstore already communicates this information to students (and faculty), but the communication could be enhanced, especially if the topic of “textbook affordability” were more in the mainstream of the academic processes. The Bookstore has worked collaboratively with the BGSU Libraries to develop informational pages about saving money on textbooks and finding alternative sources, however the accessibility and visibility of this information could be improved. The Bookstore is also researching the possibility of a “Progressive.com” approach to the available sourcing options (see Queens U. Bookstore), as well as a “guaranteed buyback” program. The Bookstore has also been working to improve the accessibility of student financial aid for the purpose of buying course materials in an amount and within the time frame a student needs it. This could be viewed as two topics: increasing STUDENT awareness of programs through direct-to-student communication and by building upon academic channels of communication AND increasing FACULTY awareness of options available to them when selecting course materials such as the impact of timing upon used book sourcing, availability of e-books, textbook rentals, the pitfalls of “bundling”, or using multiple editions.

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GAO Report (Section 133f)

HEOA requires the GAO to report on the implementation of this section no later than July 1st, 2013.  “The report shall particularly examine…”
    1. Availability of course materials information on schedule of classes
    (timing of information is implied);
    2. Provision of pricing information to faculty by publishers;
    3. Use of publisher “bundles” vs. “unbundled” materials, as well as the use of
    “integrated textbooks”1;
    4. The implementation (generally) of Section 133, including the costs and benefits to the
    university and to students.

The critical factor that relates to the timing of the compliance with HEOA by July 1, 2010 has to do with the course registration and textbook information cycles which commence in the spring of 2010, dictating a need to include communication of new information about the HEOA requirements much earlier than the July 2010 compliance date. This requirement creates the need for enhanced capabilities for monitoring activities related to the book request process, including how publishers provide information to faculty as well as improved reporting and communications. The Bookstore is working on developing appropriate and necessary tools for tracking and reporting.

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Click here to view the full text of HEOA Section 133