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Saturday, March 25, 2023

The true measure of any college's or university's success is found in the quality and dedication of its faculty members. While a prescient administration and an intellectually eager and engaged student body are also essential elements of a successful institution of higher learning, without committed professors who challenge us academically and inculcate a life-long love of learning, the university system fails.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to our often underpaid and overworked faculty for sparking robust class discussions and posing provocative questions on a wide range of issues, forcing us to think outside the box or to contemplate a different point of view from our own.

It is our professors who inspire us to do great things and make the world a better place, and we admire and respect them for that.

Yet, we can't quite understand why some faculty members are now complaining about Florida's new textbook savings bill. Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law at the end of last month a bill that seeks to provide students with the benefit of time when attempting to procure the best possible deal as they shop for required reading materials. The new law mandates that state colleges and universities post textbook requirements online no later than a month before the beginning of classes.

The idea that this law somehow inconveniences our esteemed faculty is equally incomprehensible and inconsequential. We just can't accept the contention that selecting next term's textbooks a couple of weeks or months earlier than usual is an undue burden. And with the cost of a college education climbing faster than the national debt, students need all the help they can get.

The textbook industry made an estimated $5.5 billion in sales for the 2006-2007 academic year. The average college student spends $900 per year on textbooks, a figure that amounts to almost 20 percent of tuition and fees at a four-year public institution. With these kinds of obscene profits and steep costs, you will excuse us for thinking that someone is taking us for the proverbial ride, especially when publishers come out with new editions that are more or less identical to previous versions, just more expensive.

We're not alone. Earlier this year, two students from Daytona Beach College attempted to sue the Follett Higher Education Group - the largest college textbook store in the nation - for unfairly overpricing course materials. The suit was dismissed, yet the sentiment remains: College students are getting screwed by these opportunistic, monopolistic corporations.

As the nation is mired in an economic downturn that frighteningly resembles the stagflation era of the 1970s, with exponential price increases emerging alongside a precipitous reduction in economic productivity, we welcome innovative solutions, such as the textbook savings bill, that endeavor to stop the economic bleeding. But more needs to be done.

First, we call for an investigation of the pricing practices of textbook publishers and distributors. Second, we ask our lawmakers to look into the efficacy of placing reasonable regulations on textbook pricing and buy back policies. Third, we implore our valued professors to implement e-books and other online materials that can be easily accessed through our libraries.

While the textbook savings bill is certainly not some great panacea, it's a good start to ensuring that students are treated fairly. We thank the faculty for adjusting to these new requirements, and we ask them to continue to support efforts to curb what is becoming the prohibitive cost of a college education.

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