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Koch Featured in Wall Street Journal

James V. Koch, president emeritus and Board of Visitors Professor of Economics at Old Dominion University, was quoted in Wall Street Journal article examining the new publishing trend of custom textbooks and the costs to students.

Koch, who studied college textbook pricing for the Congressional Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance in 2007, noted in the July 10 article that colleges should post exclusive material free on university Web sites, instead of requiring students to buy the more expensive custom books.  He also said that the royalty arrangements involved in such books may violate college's conflict-of-interest rules. 

"It treads right on the edge of what I would call unethical behavior," he remarked in "As Textbooks Go 'Custom,' Students Pay."

In 2006, Koch was retained by the Congressional Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance to study the cost of college textbooks, the impact of costs on students and options to make textbooks more affordable.

Koch found that textbook prices rose at six percent per year from 1986 to 2004, even though the Consumer Price Index rose only about 3 percent annually over the same time period.

According to his research, factors contributing to the rising costs included: faculty not knowing -- and therefore not taking into account -- the costs of textbooks they chose for class; only five dominant publishers have 80 percent of the textbook market; and the increased use of expensive textbook bundles that include the textbook and related items such as workbooks, CDs and websites.

Koch provided some price-reducing recommendations to the committee, including instituting book rental systems at universities, requiring publishers to unbundle textbook packages, and requiring universities to provide all books lists on the Internet with an easy access link to used book sellers.

Koch's paper and the resulting Congressional Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance report on textbook costs can be viewed online at http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/acsfa/edlite-txtbkstudy.html

Read the full Wall Street Journal article online at http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB121565135185141235-dWDw_HnZqBANzbyT_jV6ACT30yM_20080808.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top.

This article was posted on: July 10, 2008

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