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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.

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 the CSU's systemwide Affordable Learning Solutions website that has organized the wide selection of no-cost and low cost course material options.

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 price do we post online?

The same textbook can be offered at many prices – used, new, rental, digital, the campus bookstore current retail price(s) should be made available., etc. SUGGESTION: Whatever price(s) is posted, inform the students what "type" of price it is.

Question 7: 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 8: Who is responsible for implementing-maintaining HEOA requirements on my campus?

Collaboration across a wide range of units on your campus will be key to your campus' successful compliance to HEOA requirements and fulfilling the intent on the law. Each CSU campus has established processes that include key campus personnel that ensure the campus is meeting HEOA requirements. Many campuses have workgroups chaired by the Provost or delegated to an individual within academic affairs with representatives from the bookstore, library, CIO, a dean, a dept. chair, student financial aid, Associated Students, Academic Senate, and other appropriate stakeholders on your campus.

Question 9: What can we do to increase the timeliness of faculty submitting textbook and supplemental information?

Communicate to Faculty the Importance of providing textbook and course materials in a timely manner -

  • Emphasize that submitting textbook information by the campus due date enables the campus to provide the information to our students required by HEOA.
  • Messaging that faculty are helping to provide students more affordable options by providing course material requests to the campus bookstore by the campus due date.
  • Submitting course material adoptions in a timely manner benefits students with disabilities and allows sufficient time to locate alternative formatted materials.
  • Faculty submitting their course material adoptions in on time AND choosing no-cost and low-cost quality course materials can provide significant support for the academic success of all CSU students.
  • Students are more likely to come to class the first day with their course materials.

Communicating why and how to provide the textbook and course materials information is important to meeting the requirements of HEOA. To help you explain why it is so important to provide textbook information and to provide the to tools to make it easy, here are some suggestions for useful themes

  • 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. The CSU has an established and robust "Affordable Learning Solutions Campaign" that provides faculty and students an easier way to find no-cost and lower cost course materials. See http://als.csuprojects.org. Blending the HEOA requirements into a broader Affordable Learning Solutions campaign can provide a converging purpose for faculty communicating their textbook course materials 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."

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. Many campus bookstores can offer incentives for faculty/departments for communicating their textbook and course material requirements to the campus bookstore by the due date.