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A Summary of the State Textbook Affordability Legislation Post HEOA


Many state legislatures have introduced bills or enacted legislation regarding college textbooks. In addition to state legislative activity on this issue, Congress also passed a law to address textbook affordability.  In August of 2008, President Bush signed the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) into law. Part of the law lays out provisions for textbook transparency and affordability. It requires institutions that receive federal financial aid to the “maximum extent practicable” to provide students with accurate course material information including ISBN and retail price for each course listed in the institution’s course schedule used for pre-registration and registration purposes. It requires institutions and their faculty to submit timely adoptions to college bookstores to maximize student buyback value and used book opportunities. The law also requires stakeholders to work together to reduce textbook costs, publishers to disclose to faculty and staff the net price and other information needed to make informed course material selections and requires a new Government Accountability Office study in 2013 to review the implementation by institutions, bookstores, and publishers, as well as the cost, and benefits to institutions and students of the textbook provisions.  The law also created a campus textbook rental pilot program that has already received funding this year.


This federal law was based in large part on existing state textbook laws and thus codifies these policies for virtually all institutions of higher education in the U.S. and negating the need for additional legislation in states that have yet to enact similar state laws.


  • The federal law covers all higher education institutions that receive federal aid.  In most states, state law only covers certain state institutions, however, the federal law involves all institutions of higher education that receive federal funds, including private non-profit and for-profit institutions that accept federal financial aid.


  • HEOA resolves core concerns that have been expressed by stakeholders, including posting ISBN information and giving information to students in a timely manner.  The federal law encompasses the main issues of concern among students, parents and faculty. 


  • HEOA encourages institutions to find other cost saving options and publicize them to students including guaranteed buy-back and rental programs.  These programs are already in place on most campuses and institutions and bookstores can tailor these programs to better serve the campus community.


  • Enacting additional state laws governing college textbooks will only add more confusion, costs, and conflict among all of the laws covering textbooks already and delay implementation efforts already well underway. 


  • Most institutions are moving to be in full compliance with the federal law during 2009 - 2010.


  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is required to do a study of the outcomes related to the textbook provisions of HEOA after they have been in effect.  The GAO adds strong accountability to this law and institutions must demonstrate how the law is working and what its effects will be.



Federal Law


ISBN Posting

Requires ISBN posting when available

Advance Posting Before Class

Requires posting book information as soon as practicable.  Encourages disclosing information with registration.

Retail Price Disclosure to Students

Requires Price Disclosure

Faculty on-time adoptions

Requires schools to supply book and supply information timely to college bookstores.

Promoting cost reduction initiatives and educating students on cost and options

Encourages parties to work together.  Promotes savings of used books.  Encourages rental programs, guaranteed buyback programs, alternative formats like e-books, no-frills.

Creates a pilot funding program to expand textbook rental programs at more colleges.

Publisher transparency

Requires publishers to disclose in writing to faculty and staff while marketing their net prices, changes in editions, and options.


Requires publishers to sell bundled components separately with some exemptions.


Promotes faculty weighing selecting bundles carefully versus other available options.

*** Total Computing Solutions does not provide any legal advice. You should consult with your lawyer for legal advice.