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Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA)

Textbook Information Provision

In August 2008, the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA) was signed into federal law. There are a number of HEOA provisions that impact the CSU. Complying with the HEOA requirements is a condition for the CSU receiving student financial aid from the Federal government.

Beginning JULY 1, 2010 , TEXTBOOK INFORMATION provisions (PDF) within HEOA go into effect. The Textbook Information section in the HEOA defines requirements for campuses to implement new practices that provide students access to information about textbook and course materials associated with the individual CSU classes scheduled for each semester/quarter.

Frequently asked questions about HEOA’s Textbook Information Provision

Question 1: What’s the Intention of the HEOA requirements?

The intention of textbook information requirements is:

  • To ensure that students have access to affordable course materials by decreasing costs to students and enhancing transparency and disclosure with respect to the selection, purchase, sale, and use of course materials.” (See PURPOSE AND INTENT of Section 133 for more details).
  • To encourage all involved parties…to work together to identify ways to decrease the cost of college textbooks and supplemental materials for students while supporting the academic freedom of faculty members to select high quality course materials for students.”

Question 2: Will these requirements interfere with academic freedom?

The law contains a RULE OF CONSTRUCTION: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to supersede the institutional autonomy or academic freedom of the instructors involved in the selection of college textbooks, supplemental materials, and other classroom materials.”

Question 3: What are the essential requirements that campuses must satisfy?

“To the maximum extent practicable, each institution of higher education receiving Federal financial assistance shall—
“Disclose, on the institution’s internet course schedule and in a manner of the institution’s choosing, the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and retail price information of required and recommended college textbooks and supplemental materials for each course listed in the institution’s course schedule used for preregistration and registration purposes”

Question 4: Are there additional recommendations that campuses need to satisfy?

“An institution… is encouraged to disseminate to students information regarding

  • Availability of institutional programs for renting textbooks or purchasing used textbooks
  • Availability of institutional guaranteed textbook buy-back programs
  • Availability of alternative content delivery programs; or
  • Other available institutional cost-savings strategies”

You can provide students direct communications and through student organizations links to your campus bookstore programs and to [Your Institution's] systemwide Affordable Learning Solutions website that has organized the widest collection of no and lower cost course materials.

Question 5: What happens if a campus does not comply with these requirements and recommendations?

Complying with the HEOA requirements is a condition for the CSU receiving student financial aid from the Federal government. Non-compliance could put at risk $1.6 billion in Federal student assistance for our CSU students.

Question 6: What is the timeline for implementing and reporting on these requirements?

  • JULY 1, 2010: deadline for implementing the TEXTBOOK INFORMATION requirements
  • July 1, 2013: GAO Report on campus, college bookstore, and publisher implementation due to authorizing committees

Question 7: What price do we post online?

Publishers are required to provide “the price at which the publisher would make the college textbook or supplemental materials available to the bookstore on the campus”…and the price they make “available to the public.”

But …. It’s more complicated. The same textbook can be offered at many prices – used, new, rental, publisher retail, bookstore retail, etc. SUGGESTION: Whatever price is posted, inform the students what “type” of price it is. For example, “the prices posted are provided by the publishers and represent the price they charge to the public.”

Question 8: What do we do when we don’t know what materials are assigned for the course?

“ if the institution determines that the disclosure of the information described in this subsection is not practicable for a college textbook or supplemental material, then the institution shall so indicate by placing the designation “To Be Determined” in lieu of the information required under this subsection;”

There are many challenges to providing the textbook information in a timely and accurate manner. Classes are cancelled or added, faculty assignments to classes change sometimes at the last minute. Continuously improving the percentage of courses with textbook information over time is what we can reasonably do.

Question 9: Can the ISBN and price information associated with each course be available only through a password protected website?

The intent of the law is to make the textbook and course material information associated with each course publicly available on the institution’s website. Protecting the information behind a secure website is not consistent with that intent.

Registered students as well as parents and prospective students trying to estimate the cost of their education will benefit from the public availability of the textbook and course materials information. It will provide them with information that will allow them to purchase textbooks at the lowest possible price.

Many CSU campuses have already received requests under the California Public Records Act for spreadsheets with course schedules and textbook information identified in the HEOA. Many campuses have established procedures for responding to these requests in a timely manner and it is important to respond to these requests in accordance with the requirements defined within the California Public Records Act.

Question 10: Who is responsible to implementing the HEOA requirements on my campus?

Collaboration across a wide range of units on your campus will key to your campus’ successful compliance to HEOA requirements and fulfilling the intent on the law. We recommend each campus establish a workgroup that has the key campus personnel needed to plan and manage the implementation of these new requirements. One option is to have the workgroup chaired by the Provost with representatives from bookstore, library, CIO, a dean, a dept. chair, student financial aid, Associated Students President, Center for Teaching and Learning, and other appropriate stakeholders on your campus. The workgroup should develop their custom campus campaign, develop their communications programs, and ensure that the technologies and support services are deployed successfully.

Question 11: What can we do to increase the timeliness of faculty submitting textbook and supplemental information?

Don’t expect changes in behavior without changing -

  • Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for submitting textbook information on time
  • Ease of submitting textbook information on time

Communicating why and how to provide the textbook information can be a first step to changing behaviors. Explaining why it’s so important to provide textbook information and providing the tools to make it easy to do. Here are some communication themes that you might find useful:

  • Textbooks and Financial Aid: What’s the Connection? – Faculty may not know that their campus’ ability to provide Federal financial aid to their students is dependent upon a wide range of requirements, including the availability of textbook information within the course schedule. Raising awareness of this requirement can help faculty understand why they are being asked to submit their book requests so early and can help motivate more timely communication of the required textbook and supplemental material information.
  • Choosing Affordable Course Materials: The textbook information requirements in the HEOA are driven by the goal of making higher education more affordable for students. [Your Institution] is beginning an “Affordable Learning Solutions Campaign” that provides faculty and students an easier way to find no-cost and lower cost course materials. Blending the HEOA requirements into a broader Affordable Learning Solutions campaign can provide a converging purpose for faculty communicating their textbook information in a timely manner.
  • Affordability and Student Success: Students are not buying all the course materials they need to succeed because they can’t afford them. Another motivating message can be, “Help provide students more affordable options by getting course materials requests to the bookstore on time.”

Here is a PowerPoint presentation – HEOA, the CSU, and You (PPT) - that you can use and modify that covers the HEOA.

Recognition and Rewards for Good Behavior: Students are the benefactors of this effort so consider a recognition program sponsored in partnership with your Associated Students where incentives can be provided by ASI organizations. A number of bookstores have found some effective practices to increase timely submission of book orders including “carrots” in the form of free coffee and sweets (and healthy snacks) or bookstore gift certificates for a department getting 90% of their book orders to the bookstore on time.