There is an interesting discussion at WSO about the changes to financial aid with regard to book purchases. Previous discussion here.

With term bills due on the 15th of this month I am faced with paying $400 more than I expected (and budgeted for). Back in November when my financial aid package changed, I received an email saying that $400 was subtracted from my Williams Scholarship and replaced by a $400 estimated Book Grant. That sounded great, but as time passed and people continued to talk about getting free books, I was skeptical. Originally, the cost of books was not included in my aid package, so why would it be included now? The answer: it isn’t. I have to pay $400 for books and (this is my understanding of it) if I do not buy $400 worth of books I will be reimbursed for what I did not spend. That’s great if I go way over $400 for books I want to keep, but the estimated cost of my books is $406… This is the cost for books I do not want, will not use again, and will sell back for much less than I paid for them. I’ll spend maybe $100 on books I might want to keep. My plan is to shop online for books, but I still have to pay that $400 to the college and wait to be reimbursed. At the same time, I’ll be spending money buying the books elsewhere… That’s a lot of extra money to come up with because they decided to change the system 1/2 way through the school year. It wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if the email we all received didn’t set out to deceive. Here’s a quote from the email sent by William Lenhart: “I’m very happy to report that the Committee has found a way for all financial aid students to acquire all your books with no out-of-pocket expense. You’ll swipe your ID card at Water Street Books, the purchase will go on your term bill, and the cost of that purchase will be paid for by the Financial Aid Office as a grant.” This is just not true for all financial aid students and we probably should not have been told that before everything was decided.

Read the whole thing. In response, Will Slack claims that “This meant that financial aid students sometimes chose courses on the basis of book cost.” True? I have never heard of such a thing. How common was it that students chose courses based on book costs? What would be an example of a class that a student would not take because of costs?

The main problem with the change is the process by which it came about. The committee should have released the plan, including all the messy details and then solicited comments. That would have allowed students like Tyisha Turner a chance to make their opinions known.

Will also notes:

My biggest problem is that while finaid students are no longer paying for books (provided we use Water Street), $400 was suddenly charged to budgets that had already been made, and the college will be paying Water Street prices, which is probably going to be quite wasteful.

Correct. Who owns Water Street books?

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