UFF supports meaningful measures to provide greater affordability for textbooks and instructional materials. Requirements that colleges and universities must use the same textbook in undergraduate courses for a minimum number of years and for colleges and universities to provide the cost of textbooks before registration must be clearly vetted with faculty. Requiring professors to use the same textbook for a minimum number of years and to choose textbooks far in advance of the beginning of classes could mean that Florida students will receive outdated information and materials rather than cutting-edge information, research, and evidence, especially in fields that are rapidly changing (e.g., science and technology).
The House Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee and Chair Representative Elizabeth Porter filed HB 7019 relating to postsecondary access and affordability. The bill is similar to the compromise from 2015, which died when the House adjourned early, so we will be monitoring the bill for changes in future committee hearings. The following are key elements of this legislation:
- Requires institutions to publicly notice proposed tuition or fee increases 28 days prior to consideration by the board of trustees. This provision is also in the Senate version discussed below.
- Eliminates universities seeking approval from the BOG for increasing the tuition differential fee.
- Limits preeminent universities to a maximum 6% tuition differential and only if they meet performance benchmarks established by the BOG.
- Enhances textbook affordability by providing sufficient time and information for students to seek our lower prices. The current website posting notice for textbooks and instructional materials is increased from 30 to 45 days before the first day of class and requires the posting to include 95% of all courses and course sections.
- Requires that courses with a wide variance in costs or have frequent changes in textbooks or instructional materials be identified and sent to the appropriate academic department chair for review. UFF has serious concerns about this provision in regard to academic freedom and the reality that it will have little or no impact on textbook costs. It is not in the Senate bill.
The Senate has SB 984 by Senator John Legg. The Senate bill is less inclusive, but like the 2015 proposed Senate bill, it requires posting of textbooks and instructional materials at least 14 days before the first day of student registration with 90% of courses and course sections listed. The 14-day provision before student registration is problematic as early registration often occurs many months before the term begins and would be inconsistently applied from institution to institution. SB 984 has a fallback position that textbooks must be posted 60 days before class if the 14-day provision cannot be met. Why not just 45 days before the first day of class period?
The 90% threshold for listing textbooks on the website is probably more realistic than the provision in HB 7019 due to faculty logistics and new faculty hires each term.