Proposal to combat high textbook costs


Erika Ward

Jude Kiah, director of the Western Illinois University Bookstore, was a guest speaker at the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting in hopes of getting the support of the students for a referendum regarding textbooks.

 “I come from a place where 25 years ago, when I went to college, even though textbooks were a lot less expensive, I was very poor and I could not afford books for the first three semesters I was at school,” Kiah said.  “That was both crippling and embarrassing for me, at that time.

 “Over the past six years, (the bookstore has) been trying to find ways to make textbooks more affordable. Our rental program has done incredibly well – the prices of the rental are consistently lower than our competitors.”

 Kiah went on to say that the main problem on campus right now is that students are opting out of buying textbooks because of the expenses.  According to Kiah, 65 percent of students decided against buying books because of the cost.  Kiah also said that 60 percent of four-year students wouldn’t graduate in six years or less.

 To combat this issue, Kiah and others have been working to create a program that will allow students to spend less on textbooks.  Western will work with publishers to get the books for a low cost and ensure that students will have books on the first day of class.

 According to Kiah, the increase in prices for course materials has gone up 812 percent and the Consumer Price Index has gone up 250 percent since 1980.

 Kiah wishes to get the support of SGA in order to create a referendum to work with publishers and charge students a flat rate per credit hour for textbooks in order to receive them for a cheaper price.  This idea has been experimented with involving the University 100 textbooks.

 “We brought the publishers to campus and said ‘We’re going to sell 1700 of these books directly through you,’” Kiah said.  “Eventually, when we negotiated the price, it normally would have been $78 to us, meaning before we marked it up.  We got that negotiated down to $41.  Now, why would they do that?  Why would they just automatically take a book from $78 and go to $41?” 

 The answer:  guaranteed sale.

 “They don’t have to squeeze you because they don’t have a threat,” Kiah said.  “They’re willing to sell it at the price it really is.”

 SGA members voted in favor of endorsing Kiah’s referendum.

 Members also nominated senators for Outstanding New Senator of the Year and Outstanding Senator of the Year (Overall) and were voted on.  Winners will be announced at the next SGA meeting.

 Members also nominated two senators for Speaker of the Senate for next year.  Members will vote next week to elect either David Brooks or Jacob Tomlinson.

 The next SGA meeting will take place on April 14.