New federal rules take aim at college textbook costs

Kyle Vrla walked away from college life in May with a civil-engineering degree from Texas A&M. He also has a load of textbooks he hopes to sell to recoup some of the estimated $4,000 he spent on them during four years at College Station.

Vrla, who is working in Dallas, got his college textbooks every which way -- new, used, online and borrowed. Sometimes, he didn't get his money's worth -- he used one only three times and lost $150 on another because he couldn't resell it.

"When I went to resell the fifth edition of my Mechanics of Materials, the course had switched to the sixth edition the semester after me," Vrla said.

Advocates say a new set of federal provisions, aimed at driving down the cost of college textbooks, should help students this fall. On July 1, these rules took effect:

Publishers must give professors detailed information about textbook prices, revision histories and a list of alternate formats.

Publishers have to sell materials typically bundled with textbooks -- such as CDs, DVDs and workbooks -- separately so students don't have to buy them.

Colleges have to include in-course schedules with required textbooks for each class, including the book's price and International Standard Book Number, an identifying tool.

The protections, included in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, are an attempt to lessen student debt, said U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., on Wednesday.

"The cost of education is of concern not only to students and families but to the nation," Durbin said, explaining why the government got involved in textbook prices. "Students are emerging with more and more debt."

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