Lawmakers look to eliminate sales tax on college textbooks

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A new push by legislators could change how much parents and college students pay for textbooks.

College costs have skyrocketed over the last few decades, which is no surprise as the statistics have long shown the high price for obtaining a degree.

State lawmakers want to do something about that, starting with the books.

We went directly to the customers to find out if they feel their college textbooks are too expensive.

“We’re already taking on a lot of debt,” Faith Christiansen, a University of Dayton (UD) second year, said. “We owe money to the money to the money that we owe. Right? So, as college students, they do cost a lot.”

UD Law student Marty Gehres echoed that sentiment, “I do think that books are priced way too high and that there are better solutions out there.”

“I think they’d be more expensive at another university, but the University of Dayton offers a book scholarship to almost all their students now that covers– it personally covered all my books,” UD Senior Carlie Farhmbach explained. “Without that book scholarship, I think I would have been struggling.”

UD did confirm to 2 NEWS that it has run a book scholarship program since 2011. It provides students with $4,000, typically over their four years, to pay for their college textbooks.

Other higher education institutions we called did not provide a statement on how this could impact their students.

The College Board estimates the average cost for textbooks is nearly $1,200 a year; Gehres says the costs can go way past that price range.

“Textbooks are too expensive.” he declared. “Since the ’70s they’ve gone up more with inflation– more than any other thing. And I think textbooks are too expensive.”

Representative Mike Duffey (R, Worthington) made the same point about inflation when interviewing with 2 NEWS’ Beairshelle Edmé. He also says having fewer publishing companies may be contributing to these higher prices.

All these things are why he’s co-sponsoring legislation with Representative Michael Stinziano (D, Columbus) that would eliminate sales tax on textbooks.

“It’s always a concern of mine as the (Higher Education) Subcommittee Chair that whatever we do to save money, it doesn’t just save money for the universities it saves money for the students,” Duffey said. “One of the good things about a sales tax exemption is that students pay the sales tax so when we eliminate the sales tax, students will be the ones that save the money, not necessarily the universities. It’s a very direct one-to-one savings for students, unlike many other kinds of college affordability programs.”

The state lawmaker tells 2 NEWS it’s not the perfect solution, but it is a start.

The bill will be introduced when the House session starts in late September.

It does have bi-partisan support, and could be passed out of the Ohio House before the end of the year.

The measure would then have to go through the Ohio Senate and finally to Governor John Kasich for his signature.

2 NEWS asked the Governor’s office about his thoughts on the proposed bill and whether he would sign it.

In a statement, his Spokesman Jim Lynch said, “We generally do not take public positions on all bills that get introduced in the Ohio General Assembly, but Gov. Kasich has been focused on reducing college costs to help students and their families. Over the past five years, Ohio has been national leaders on holding down tuition increases and our new budget continues that progress by freezing tuition and general fees over the next two years. The governor also has a task force examining ways for Ohio’s public colleges and universities to reduce their costs.”

The earliest the proposed bill could be law is the next school year, 2016-2017.

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