Textbook scholarships may run out of funds

By Hannah Johnson

The textbook scholarships that were given out this year for the first time are in danger of losing funding. The program was funded by a gift from an outside donor, and the entire gift was used up in distributing this year’s scholarships. It is still unsure whether financial support can be found to continue the program.

The textbook scholarship program is a result of a several-year conversation among students, student government and various administration officials trying to address the high costs of textbooks. This year, the program was finally implemented, with 30 first and second-year students receiving scholarships. The scholarships, which could only be used at the Macalester Textbook Store, covered any required texts up to $500. Scholarships were only available for the first semester.

“With [textbook scholarships] we’re trying to give people a fair start academically,” Macalester Director of Financial Aid Brian Lindeman said.

Now, however, the textbook scholarship program is searching for other avenues of financial support. The program needs to be funded by outside sources because it is not in next year’s operating budget.

The most likely source of continued funding would come from a deceased donor whose monetary contributions have supported similar programs in the past. Before this can happen, though, the Office of Student Affairs must contact the family of the donor to gain permission to use the money in this fashion.

“We are working very hard to make this an ongoing opportunity,” Vice President of Student Affairs Laurie Hamre said. “We’ve uncovered some areas that we think would cover this.”

This year Macalester also offered 60 other students the opportunity to participate in the textbook advance program, which allows students to acquire textbooks at the beginning of the year and pay the school back for them over the course of three months.

Even if Macalester is unable to offer the textbook scholarships again next year, Lindeman says they will likely keep the textbook advance program.

Macalester also has to implement other textbook cost containment disclosures mandated by the Federal Higher Education Act Reauthorization of 2008. By July 1, colleges will be required to inform students upfront about the costs of textbooks for a given course and give them enough warning to be able to buy textbooks elsewhere if they choose. Publishers will also be required to sell their books unbundled so that students can pick and choose which they need.

Lindeman said this act may not have a huge impact, saying it is “unlikely to drop costs drastically.