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1/22/2010 - Jackson, Miss.

New textbook policies under consideration by the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning could require a minimum adoption period of three years for many lower-division courses.

At a meeting Thursday, the Board voted to give initial approval to the policies, which are aimed at reducing costs for students and increasing transparency related to price and availability of textbooks. The recommendations were developed by a Textbook Task Force made up of one representative from each institution.

Final approval by the Board is still needed for the policies to go into effect.

"The high price of textbooks is an issue that affects all our students and parents, so it is critical that we investigate ways to cut down on costs," said Trustee Christy Pickering, who has pushed for changes in textbook adoption policies. "These recommendations provide some solutions without affecting the quality of the texts we are using in the classroom."

Aside from the minimum three-year adoption period for many lower-division courses, the recommendations include requirements that all eight of Mississippi’s public institutions:

  • Establish textbook adoption deadlines that are no later than the beginning of the registration period for succeeding semesters and are at least 40 days prior to the end of the preceding semester;
  • Include in the adoption process an indication of whether a textbook is required or recommended, and whether an alternate edition of the textbook may be used;
  • Strongly encourage the same course material to be adopted for all sections of a course;
  • Strongly encourage a minimum textbook adoption period of two years for most upper-division courses;
  • Provide faculty with information on pricing and the availability of alternative formats for course materials;
  • Provide students with tips on purchasing textbooks, including the availability of electronic versions; and
  • Provide faculty and students with results from surveys on student satisfaction of textbooks.

The proposed policies would also require universities to name a textbook coordinator to oversee implementation and submit an annual assessment report to IHL. Some of the recommended changes would speed up the implementation of the textbook-related provisions of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, bringing the system into full compliance with the federal law.

Bill Broyles, who co-chaired the Textbook Task Force with Dr. Maurice Eftink, said he is pleased to see the recommendations before the Board. Dr. Eftink is the associate provost and dean of the graduate school at the University of Mississippi.

"The task force wanted to recommend policy changes that would make a difference for students immediately," said Broyles, assistant vice president for student affairs at Mississippi State University. "We believe this proposal strikes a balance by accomplishing this goal without putting an unmanageable burden on faculty or the universities."

Broyles said there would likely be more recommendations from the task force in the future in response to new technology that is changing the textbook options that are available to students.

Student Government Association presidents from across the state have also participated in textbook discussions.

In November, the student presidents launched "Keep Books Cheap Appreciation Week," a week dedicated to thanking faculty who kept costs in mind when adopting textbooks. The event will be held each semester.

"Many students have to purchase their own textbooks and are already cash-strapped after tuition and fees," said Blake Jeter, president of the MSU Student Association. "As student body presidents, this is an issue that touches all of our constituents. I’m so glad the Board is considering these recommendations and we look forward to continuing to work with them on this issue in the future."

Click here to download a full report from the Textbook Task Force. Updated information can also be found on IHL’s Facebook fan page, Mississippi Universities.


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