Staff editorial: BookMarq should release textbook info

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Students everywhere have been hit hard by the financial crisis. Many have lost student loans, and all have to consider the difficulty of entering a volatile job market after graduation. In these tough economic times, everyone is tightening their belts and trying to find ways to cut spending.

Tuition prices offer no relief. The cost of higher education continues to rise, and it is estimated that Marquette students already shell out a whopping $37,324 in tuition, room and board, and other school related fees for a year at Marquette. With this financial burden and the recent economic downturn in mind, we think it is time that the BookMarq disclose ISBN numbers to ease the burden on students trying to buy textbooks.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, an ISBN number is a unique indentifying number that is assigned to every book published. Publishing the ISBN numbers for course materials allows students to search websites like Amazon.com to find books at the best rate.

The garbled and abbreviated titles, truncated author lists and frequently missing edition numbers provided by BookMarq and Sweeney's make finding course materials online a complete guessing game. It is easy to buy the wrong edition or the wrong book entirely when working with such little information. If the author of your book is a "Smith" or a "Johnson," forget shopping around for a deal.

Ultimately, students have few options to combat this unfair practice. They can either buy from BookMarq or Sweeney's at the published, often inflated prices, cross their fingers and buy online, or simply do with out. With current college costs, studying without books is becoming an attractive option. According to a 2006 Washington Post article, the cost of textbooks rose at double the inflation rate for the previous 20 years and, at that time, almost 60 percent of students across the country did not purchase all of their course materials.

The point of a campus bookstore should not be to squeeze every dime possible out of the students it claims to serve. Many, if not most, other schools provide ISBN numbers to their students. Our neighbors at UW-Milwaukee, UW-Madison, and MATC are provided with ISBN numbers.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act was recently revised to require universities to disclose ISBN numbers and retail prices for course materials. The requirements must be met by all universities receiving any federal dollars by July 1, 2010. The federal government should not be have to prod the university to treat students fairly. It is time for BookMarq and Marquette to do the right thing.

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