Book Fees and Rising Tuition: The Future of Illinois College

Nathan A. Zimmerman –

    Students should not buy their books for any of their classes next semester.

It seems like next year will be an awful lot like the process of obtaining books through our elementary education. You know, the policy of paying a book fee in addition to other charges and receiving assigned books upon which you return at the end of the semester. Now I know that the administration has disclosed the details of this executive decision to campus at a forum held on Monday, February 2, and I hope that any and all questions were answered. Whereas a forum with the entire student body should have no doubt been held before the decision was finalized, these are just a few questions I demand an answer to:

  • Why isn’t this an optional policy?

Personally and economically, I always try to find the best price for all the books I need for my classes. However, now I have to deal with an inflated book fee incorporated into a tuition cost that has already been set to increase next year. All students I have talked to have said this cost is ridiculously high just to rent the textbooks. To balance the prices of classes with expensive books and those with cheaper books, there will obviously be big losers and winners with the new policy. The policy as it stands shows that many of the students will be paying extra for the benefit of a smaller cohort of students. Who is the administration to enforce such an executive decision without first hearing the concerns of ALL the students beforehand? A much more reasonable policy, in my economical mind if the college was really concerned for all students obtaining textbooks, would be to have an Illinois College Textbook Fund for donors or even students and faculty to contribute to. However, as this is a monopolistic policy, as long as a monopoly collects revenue, it doesn’t really care about the consequences or how it obtains business.

  • Can students keep the books and at what cost?

For classes pertaining to my major I like to buy my books new. Even with buying my books new and going through a number of different vendors, I save a significant amount of money than even renting the books from the bookstore on campus. For all of my books this semester, buying books new, I spent less than $150 for four classes. This book fee is going to be $310 per semester. Students should be allowed to test their options; it is not only nice to be able to sift through the different options, but should be encouraged by a liberal arts college for students to find innovative methods of saving money. By saving money through the books I buy, I intend to have these books as a reference tool in my library someday, or on a bookshelf in my office. It is to my understanding that if we would like to keep our books, in addition to the fee already attached to tuition, students will also have to pay the difference between buying the book and returning it.

  • Why was the student body not consulted about possible changes before a policy was decided upon?

To me this may be the most important question I want answered. The administration of this school is supposed to be concerned about the students and their future. Whereas it has been heard that there were a few students who were involved in the initial discussions, this does not speak for an entire body of students. Why was the Student Senate not approached first to see what concerns students may have? Instead the administration simply asked for students recommended by Senate to sit on the panel, and from those students’ perspectives, it had seemed like the college had already set its mind on what to do before the meetings had commenced. The students served to help choose which company to go through. Concerns had been raised, but disregarded.

Conclusion

Since there is going to be a set fee, how exactly will the college prove that this new policy will be beneficial for all? With a problem already in retaining students (possibly because of rising tuition costs every year), how will an additional book fee possibly attract more students? After the Farley Forum, there were students seriously considering transferring after receiving news about both the book fee and an already confirmed rise in tuition prices for next year. When doing the financial calculations, the students found that they would save serious money and possibly be admitted into a prestigious Honors Program at the University of Illinois – Springfield.

Such a fee in addition to rising tuition may make this goal of 1,200 students attending Illinois College a little unfathomable. Are the students currently attending this college not adult enough to make their own decisions with their books? Is it really necessary to resort to a policy we went through that is similar to one experienced in middle and high school? I hope the administration can convince me and other students on this fine campus otherwise. A most daunting task indeed.

NOTE: This article was submitted and edited before the Textbook Forum had occurred.

Nathan A. Zimmerman, from Mt. Sterling, Illinois, is a junior majoring in Finance and Economics with a minor in Political Science. Nathan is the Organizational Outreach Chair of the Student Senate, the President of the Warren O. Billhartz Investment Club, as well as an active member of Enactus. Nathan is a features and opinions writer for The Rambler.

Mr. Naztastic

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