ANNAPOLIS – The House of Delegates has scrapped a plan to cut student costs by eliminating a tax on textbooks, converting the bill into a plan to create a bulk book buying consortium to reduce prices.
But some lawmakers and book store workers say the bill now won’t do much of anything to help students reduce the price of expensive texts.
“Bulk buying has no impact upon cost reduction of text books,” said Joyce Nelson, book store manager at Morgan State University.
She said books are bought at a fixed price per unit and that unless someone persuades the publisher to reduce the cost of books, the bill probably would not do anything.
“Textbooks are expensive, but so are tennis shoes,” she said.
The bill, House Bill 70, passed the House unanimously a week ago, but language eliminating the sales tax on textbooks was deleted in favor of a proposal to create a University Textbooks Consortium within the University System of Maryland.
Members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which heard the bill, said exempting student books from the state’s 5 percent sales tax was not worth the estimated $12 million dollars the bill would cost. The bill passed with the major change.
Its purpose to reduce the cost of textbooks for students is still the same, but the method is different, said Delegate Peter Franchot, D-Montgomery, the bill’s sponsor.
“I think it’s a valid change,” said Franchot. “And I hope it passes the Senate.”
The cost of education is soaring for college students, and not just in textbooks. Tuition for undergraduate in-state students in the University of Maryland System has risen by an average of about 30 percent over the last few years.
This fiscal year tuition is expected to increase by an average of 5.8 percent.
Textbook costs, meanwhile, fall directly in line with inflation, increasing an average of 2.5 percent a year, said J. Bruce Hildebrand, of the Association of American Publishers.
Still, Jahantab Siddiqui, a freshman business and government major at the University of Maryland, College Park, said he’s in favor of anything that would make textbooks less expensive.
He said he spent about $600 on 10 books this semester for five classes. Some of his classes required five or six books, he said.
“Anything that the state or the university could do to bring down the price of books would be welcomed by students,” Siddiqui said.
One Ways and Means Committee member said the General Assembly should take a look at the issue of expensive books in the future.
“One of these days we will truly tackle the question of expensive college textbooks,” said Delegate Jean Cryor, R-Montgomery. “But this is not the bill that does it.”