A Senate committee has reworked a bill which aims to help college students buy textbooks at more reasonable prices. A bill which passed the Iowa House required professors at the three state-supported universities and 15 area community colleges to let students know — two weeks before classes commence — what textbooks would be used so students could try to buy them on-line rather than buy them at the university bookstores.
Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames who’s an Iowa State University economics professor, says it’s a good idea, but unworkable. "I can, speaking from some experience, give you a long list of reasons why last-minute changes are sometimes needed," Quirmbach says. "Sometimes publishers are out of stock with the textbook that you’ve ordered. Sometimes enrollments change and instructor’s assignments are shifted. There are a variety of reasons that changes need to be made."
The alternative which was endorsed Thursday by the Senate Education Committee merely sends a message that legislators believe all college instructors in Iowa should let students know two weeks in advance, but it does not require it as the House voted to do. "The language in the House was it required to do this ‘to the extent possible.’ Well, if you have any feeling for that language you realize that’s a loophole about as big as they get, so there wasn’t any real requirement," Quirmbach says. "Much as some students may like the vision of throwing their professors in jail, that wasn’t actually wasn’t going to happen. There was no enforcement mechanism."
This particular bill was among a few dozen pieces of legislation which cleared a statehouse committee on Thursday, a deadline day for action on a wide range of bills. "I was lobbied by some of my student representatives from Iowa State and they made a convincing case for it and so I thought that we should try to fix the bill rather than just let it die and I’m happy we did so," Quirmbach says.
The next stop for this textbook proposal would be before the full, 50-member Iowa Senate.