This semester marks the start of the first full academic year under the College’s new Financial Aid textbook policy. Implemented last spring, the policy ensures that the College will cover the total cost of textbooks and reading packets for all financial aid students.
Accounting for 53 percent of the student population, financial aid students were previously granted a $400 allowance for books, which they could use at the 1914 Library. Various additional vouchers were given to students if their textbook costs exceeded that amount. Now all students are able to use their ID cards at Water Street Books and charge the cost of required textbooks to their term bills.
“The [new] system has been a tremendous success for financial aid students,” said Paul Boyer, director of financial aid. He added that the goal of redesigning the system was to create something easy to use and quick. “I think we scored high on all these points,” Boyer said.
Boyer said the old system had “bugs and quirks” that have now been eliminated. For example, Water Street Books had previously not been able to obtain certain textbooks that were out of print or added by professors late in the semester. Under the new system, the College orders any books that the bookstore cannot obtain.
Boyer said another issue with the old system involved the 1914 Library, which could not keep up with the demand for books for all financial aid students.
“We just outgrew the capabilities of the library,” Boyer said. According to Boyer, the space was limited, and on the day before the start of classes each semester, the waiting time for entrance to the library was three to four hours long.
Initially, when the new policy was enacted last spring, “there was a lot of confusion and misunderstanding,” Boyer said.
However, this confusion has not carried over to the fall. Boyer said he believes returning students are now used to the system and first-years are easily adapting.
Additionally, the new system has had a positive effect on Water Street Books. Manager Richard Simpson said textbooks sales have been up as expected.
“We now have to plan for a much greater volume of books than before,” Simpson said.
An unexpected byproduct of the new policy last spring was a savings of $40,000. However, Boyer said this number was not significant given the total amount provided for books.
Boyer added that he expects the costs of funding books for financial aid students to remain constant this year. “We won’t know a careful number until the end of the semester,” Boyer said.
Whether the new policy has had any effect on students’ behavior when selecting courses has yet to be determined. Mary Morrison, associate registrar, said she has heard little feedback thus far.
The Registrar’s Office, by a national mandate issued this year, has been required to inform students of textbook cost information at the time students enroll in their classes. This change has taken place in the form of the “BookLook” option, linked to the Water Street Books database, which permitted students to view lists of required texts for each course. Morrison said she was unsure about the success of “BookLook.”
As for the 1914 Library, some books once stocked there were sold to wholesalers and others were donated to organizations that ship books overseas to needy countries, according to Boyer. Water Street Books has now occupied some of the library’s old space, while the rest of the space remains vacant with no impending plans.