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Textbook example

The best news I've come across this week is the announcement from Indiana University-Bloomington that, beginning this fall, textbooks will be available for rental.

When lawmakers scrutinize tuition increases at public universities, they overlook the burden of textbook costs on students, which can easily exceed $600 a semester or more. IU, like many universities, has outsourced operation of its bookstores to Barnes & Noble. A new agreement with the company provides for the rental deal, which IU officials estimate will save students $3 million.

I would hope the announcement will be followed up by a publicity campaign to advise students the new service is available. Colleges and universities do their students a tremendous disservice when they neglect to educate them on how to cut textbook costs. A community college instructor told me recently that financial aid is deposited into an account that can be drawn on only through the privatized college bookstore, where students receiving federal financial aid buy books at inflated prices. In the instructor's case, the textbook he required sold for $140 at the bookstore but was available online for $40.

Someone is making money there, but it's certainly not taxpayers.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at