ANNAPOLIS – Like most students starting school today, Ebony Wilder, 19, a sophomore at the University of Maryland College Park, has to shell out more than tuition money.
Wilder expects to spend about $500 for textbooks in five classes and there doesn’t seem to be any relief from that cost for her anytime soon.
Delegate Peter Franchot, D-Montgomery, has proposed a bill to exempt textbooks from the state’s 5 percent sales tax in an effort to cushion the rising cost of higher education. The bill would cost the state about $12 million in lost revenue, according to the bill.
“It’s a small amount that can be found in the budget for the support of college students,” Franchot said.
But several lawmakers said the bill will do more harm than help.
“I like helping students. It should be a priority on our list,” said Delegate Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County. “The question is how are we going to pay for it.”
“It’s too expensive for the good you get out of it,” said Delegate Jean Cryor, R-Montgomery.
Students will only save 5 cents on a dollar, which Cryor estimates to be about $50 per student per semester. It is not worth the $12 million that it will cost the state, Cryor said.
“I would not anticipate it will get out of committee,” she said.
Legislators are looking for other ways to alleviate the high price of textbooks, but Cryor said that eliminating the sales tax is a poor solution to the problem.
Compared to the $25.9 billion budget that Gov. Robert Ehrlich proposed, Franchot said the expense is worth the loss in revenues.
Higher education spending has declined and tuition has risen an average of 30 percent over the last couple years. Only this year, did Ehrlich add $43 million in operating costs for the university system, limiting the in-state tuition increase to no more than 5.9 percent this fiscal year.
Those cost pressures have meant that some students are not purchasing textbooks, Franchot said.
Franchot proposed the bill, he said, because of “Bob Ehrlich’s hammering of the university,” Franchot said.
Marty Freedman, an accounting professor at Towson University, did not realize how costly text books were until he went into the bookstore one day.
“I was amazed,” he said. “The professors are really not aware.”
In his undergraduate accounting class, students do not have to purchase a book, but in his graduate class, the book costs about $80.
Most books for major classes cost about $100 each and the prices increase every year, said Joyce Nelson, manager at Morgan State University’s bookstore. She is undecided on her position on the textbook bill.
“It would be less expensive for the students and less revenue for the state,” Nelson said. “Legislators have to decide who can readily afford the loss.”