A Spectator analysis conducted Monday found that 58 percent of Barnard courses offered this semester are not in compliance with a federal education law mandating that course textbooks be listed with their retail prices during the registration period.
The Higher Education Opportunity Act Textbook Provision requires that the ISBN and price of required and recommended textbooks be listed for classes offered by any institution receiving federal funding for financial aid.
The Textbook Provision, which came into effect in July 2010, states that its purpose is to encourage "faculty, students, administrators, institutions of higher education, bookstores, distributors, and publishers to work together to identify ways to decrease the cost of college textbooks and supplemental materials for students while supporting the academic freedom of faculty members to select high quality course materials for students."
Spectator analyzed a total of 439 Barnard courses—as collected on Monday—offered by all Barnard departments this fall. Forty-two percent of courses are in compliance with the law, with the philosophy department having the highest compliance rate at 100 percent.
Though faculty do have the ability to explicitly state on CourseWorks that a course does not have a textbook, courses that were unlikely to have textbooks, such as discussion sections, recitations, and individual projects, were removed from the data set.
The math department, with 80 percent compliance, and the classics department, with 75 percent compliance, are the second and third most compliant departments.
No classes in the women's, gender and sexuality studies department list any textbooks, and seven departments listed textbooks for less than 30 percent of courses.
The architecture, chemistry, physics and astronomy, and art history departments round out the top five least compliant departments.
Last semester, Executive Assistant to the Provost Larry Picard sent an email to Barnard faculty reminding them to upload textbook information by April 6, along with instructions on how to upload textbook ISBNs or indicate that a course has no textbooks.
"As you may recall, colleges and universities must comply with the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) by providing students with textbook information for all courses. A textbook is defined as any book with an ISBN," Picard wrote. "The information should be available to students every year by the time of program planning."
Barnard Provost Linda Bell said in an interview with Spectator that the low compliance rates came as a surprise.
"This is the first that I had heard about any issue with faculty not listing textbooks," Bell said. "I had no idea that this was an issue."
Spectator reported similarly low compliance rates at Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science for the 2014-15 academic year. Like Barnard, the University sent announcements—the most recent being this Tuesday—reminding faculty members to post textbook information, but University-wide compliance has yet to be achieved.
Bell said that after reading the related Spectator article published on Wednesday regarding textbook information availability at Columbia College and SEAS, which reported that 48 percent of CC and SEAS undergraduate courses failed to comply with the law, she had brought up the issue at a department chairs meeting to determine if the chairs are following up with faculty.
"Some chairs do follow up, but when we evaluate all of this, part of the procedure will likely involve some form, some way of making sure that it [follow-up] gets done," Bell said.
"One thing I can tell you is we will look into the numbers, and if they're validated, we'll look seriously at making sure our processes work better in the future," Bell added.