Textbook fee decided Tuesday

Erika Ward

Students at Western Illinois University are being encouraged to log onto STARS and vote in favor of, or against a referendum that would create a flat rate for textbooks on May 5.

 Jude Kiah, director of the University Union Bookstore, created the referendum for Western.

 “We’ve got a major problem on our campus,” Kiah said.  “Students do not have access to disposable income that allows them to have their books in an a la carte method, which is what we do now.”

 The referendum proposed would require students to pay a flat rate, per semester hour to have textbooks.  The fee will be no greater than $20 per semester hour and cannot be opted out.

 “We have to do it in a ‘no greater than’ way, because the number will be different for full-time students and part-time students,” Kiah said.  “Part-time students will pay a slightly, higher fee than the full time students will.” 

 According to Kiah, one of the upsides to this arrangement is that the fee would be added to students’ bills.  This would mean that financial aid could cover the cost for textbooks.

 Kiah also said this would solve many of the problems that students currently face when purchasing textbooks.  In addition, students will have their books on the first day of school. It would be covered by financial aid and the prices on the books will be reduced between 50 to 80 percent.

 “(This is) based upon a host of factors having to do with vertical integration, using the buying power of students together, rather than one-sie, two-sie,” Kiah said.  “Right now, the market is affecting our students — we want our students to affect the market.  We can do that.  It’s a guaranteed thing that we can do this.”

The program wouldn’t be implemented until the fall of 2016, meaning that the current juniors and seniors enrolled at Western would not be affected by new fee.

The books provided to students would be on a rental basis. If the books are lost or damaged, students would be charged 50 percent of the listed price for the damaged or lost book.

This entire program is possible because of agreements made between the school and the publisher(s) of the textbooks.

Kiah said the reason the referendum is being proposed is because of the financial status of the students at Western.

“We’re doing it here because the demographic of our students is poor — we’re poorer,” Kiah said.  “So, they have less money to begin with. It costs more money to go to school.  We have 55 to 60 percent of our students who are first generation and do not have people in their lives who can help guide them through these minefields.”

The issue has already been brought to the Student Government Association (SGA) on campus who voted in favor of endorsing the referendum on the meeting of April 7.

“We already know; we already have the data that shows us that there is a direct correlation between their ability to succeed and their procurement of the textbook,” Kiah said.  “When you have 200 students a week going to the library and saying, ‘I don’t have books,’ that’s an epidemic.  That’s not a problem — that’s an epidemic.”