By Ed Kemp/Hattiesburg American
HATTIESBURG — Nationwide, students pay $900 per year on a product, that for the most part, they derive use from for only a few months.
William Carey University junior Brittany Clark, 21, a music therapy major, said she spends about $350 per trimester on purchasing textbooks.
What does she do with most of them when the term ends?
“I usually sell them back or give them to my friends,” she said.
Starting next fall, WCU students will be able to rent some of their textbooks from the campus bookstore — an option school officials say will ensure students receive upfront savings, rather than relying upon the hit-or-miss proposition of selling textbooks back.
The private Baptist university announced signing a textbook rental agreement with Barnes & Noble College Booksellers last week. The program, which allows students to rent core curriculum textbooks for between 45-50 percent of the original price, will be implemented on all three WCU campuses.
Students can use their university-issued financial aid for rental books.
Meanwhile, the state’s public universities — the University of Southern Mississippi included — are implementing several other policies to reduce textbook costs, effective June 1.
They include student notification of whether a book is required — rather than recommended — for a course, student and faculty notification of alternate purchasing options, and minimum textbook adoption periods.
USM also is considering a rental agreement with Barnes & Noble. Mike Herndon, USM’s director of procurement services, said school officials recently were approached by the bookseller about having a rental program, but no decision has been made as of yet.
Herndon said officials are examining whether the program fits students’ needs and can work with the current contract between USM and Barnes & Noble. The school once had a rental program years before its Barnes & Noble contract.
WCU students interviewed said they favor the program.
“I would definitely use it,” said freshman Subhi Younes, 16, a chemistry major. “I don’t need to keep all my books.”
WCU professors agree, with reservations.
“A lot of professors would like the students to hold on to the textbooks that they are assigned,” WCU biology professor Thomas Rauch said. “I can understand the plight of the students, too.
“I would rather them rent the textbook than borrow a friend’s or not have it at all, which some of them do.”
Previously, students said they had two primary cost-saving options with the campus bookstore.
They could purchase used editions for 25 percent off the regular price. Or they could sell their textbooks back at the end of the semester for half of the purchase price — with one potential problem.
“There is no guarantee that we will buy a purchased textbook back,” said Barbara Hamilton, WCU executive assistant to the president.
“If a book goes to a new edition, if the course isn’t offered the next term, if a course is discontinued, if a professor changes his desired book, or if a new professor teaches the class the next term, then we may pay back less than 50 percent for a text, or we may not buy the text back at all,” she said.
Among the state’s eight public universities, the state College Board recently implemented policies to counteract several of the above scenarios.
Starting June 1, the board decided that most textbooks assigned in introductory college classes must remain assigned for at least three years. Most textbooks in upper classes will be subject to a two-year adoption period.
State College Board spokeswoman Leah Rupp Smith said that there are exceptions for programs, such as nursing, where textbooks have to be updated for accreditation purposes.
Barnes & Noble, which runs 636 college bookstores nationwide, started its rental program in January at 25 college campuses. Other companies had started rental programs previously.
The bookseller expects 200 schools to participate by the end of the year, according to Karen DiScala, Barnes & Noble manager of corporate communications.
WCU is one of two four-year universities in the state to enter a textbook rental agreement with Barnes & Noble.
The University of Mississippi has also announced a textbook rental agreement.