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Davis, California

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Steal this Column

I’ve always been told that economics issues work in cycles, and while I’ll be the first to admit that the complexities of fluctuation and equilibrium are far beyond my understanding, I’d venture that this belief is at least somewhat true.

For me, the cycle tends to rotate between two main periods being broke and going broke. Granted, it’s not an ideal, or even remotely responsible, way of managing my finances, but, for the most part, I tend to pull it off pretty well.

Unfortunately, every quarter, like clockwork, my cycle is completely thrown off by the administration’s desperate attempts to slowly siphon every last cent from my already ailing bank account. The problem to which I am referring is a universal one, and like many of you will be finding out in the coming days, deals with the outrageous cost of textbooks at the UC Davis Bookstore.

Honestly, one would think that the quarterly gouging of $3,165 would entitle the student body to what is often marketed as the one of the most affordable avenues for higher education in the country. Unfortunately, three times a year, UC Davis students are expected to fork over an exorbitant amount of cash for textbooks that are consistently marked up higher than their already expensive retail value.

According to the UCD Bookstore’s website, all new textbooks being sold on campus are subject to a 28 percent markup. The resulting profits from these markups are then used to fund improvements and repairs to the Memorial Union, an idea that doesn’t sound all that bad until you really stop and think about it.

Considering that, each academic quarter, UC Davis students are expected to pay a $28Memorial Union Fee,a $130.80Facilities and Campus Enhancement Fee,and a $134.60 fee for theCampus Expansion Initiative,is this additional tax upon students truly necessary?

The chances that the Bookstore will suddenly sympathize with the plight of starving students and reduce the markups are essentially zero, however there are measures being taken on campus to make sure that your education is kept remotely affordable. Believe it or not, our very own ASUCD has previously identified this issue, and actually taken measures to help solve the problem for financially strapped students. Hard to believe, right?

Student government’s solution to the textbook affordability problem comes in the form of the ASUCD Book Exchange, a resource which seeks to eliminate the factors that contribute to unfair textbook prices, mainly the Bookstore itself, and establish a direct, and markup free, student to student marketplace. Not only does this allow the student body to bypass the inflated prices on campus, but also avoid the heartbreaking moment when you receive a whopping $4 for that textbook you spent close to a hundred on only ten weeks earlier.

While the ASUCD Book Exchange is a great idea in theory, it doesn’t take into account circumstances that could leave some students completely out of luck. Perhaps no one is selling the books you need, perhaps no one will pay the price you’re asking, or perhaps the resource is so poorly publicized that students have already sold their books back to the Bookstore before reading this extremely enlightening article. Regardless, it becomes clear the ASUCD Book Exchange is not the ideal solution to this problem.

Luckily, ASUCD isn’t alone in their efforts to help lower the cost of education here at UC Davis, and will soon be aided by an organization which actually possess the ability to make tangible change here on campus.

In January 2009, California State Senator Elaine Alquist introduced Senate Bill 48, a measure that would require all textbooks used by California’s public institutions for higher education to be available in an online format. While the sheer convenience of online textbooks should be enough to see this bill pass, what really makes SB 48 student friendly is that the price of these online textbooks could not exceed their already established retail value. Essentially, come January 2020, the deadline for the publishers to meet the bill’s requirements, the UCD Bookstore can kiss those sweet markups goodbye.

Unfortunately, I, like many of you reading this, will probably need to purchase this quarter’s textbooks sometime before 2020, and will probably end up being shafted once again by our friendly, neighborhood UCD Bookstore.


JAMES NOONAN wishes everyone luck in their efforts to cheat the system and find affordable textbooks. Send him your creative ideas at jjnoonan@ucdavis.edu.


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