posted September 4, 2008

Textbook Economy Wins National Award

A Hope professor's effort to save his students money has led to a national award.

Dr. Steve VanderVeen, professor of management and director of the Center for Faithful Leadership, is one of only eight professors nationwide recognized through the Faculty Recognition Textbook Scholarship Contest coordinated by the Used Textbook Association (UTA).  He has been honored for reducing students' book-buying costs by choosing to use an earlier edition of a textbook that he feels continues to be just as relevant in the material it presents.

The award includes a $500 textbook scholarship from the UTA.  The funds are being used to reduce textbook costs for students at the college.

As he prepared materials for one of his management classes a few years ago, VanderVeen realized that the newest edition of the text that he liked to use wasn't much different than the previous edition - in fact, it wasn't different at all for the portions he intended to use.

And so he hit on an idea.  Purchase multiple copies of the previous edition at a reduced price and rent copies to his students for a nominal fee - much less than the new book would cost them, and also less than the net cost would have been even had they been able to sell the newer book back to the bookstore at the end of the semester.  With the new edition hitting the shelves, wholesalers were eager to be rid of the older version, and VanderVeen and Mary Deenik of the college's bookstore staff were able to find more than enough copies at favorable prices.

After renting the books to his students for a couple of cycles - saving them money all the way - VanderVeen eventually paid off the initial cost of the used books.  All subsequent proceeds have been plowed back into the college's academic program, specifically to support the Institute for Project-Based Learning, through which students pursue real-life management projects from start to finish, often working on behalf of a local company or community organization.

"There were two reasons that motivated the idea," he said.  "First, although the transmission of textbook knowledge has its place in education, I believe that the best knowledge is experiential learning guided by mentors, using textbook knowledge as a base.  Therefore I wanted to financially support a project-based learning program.  Second, I wanted to save students a little money.  It turns out I can save them a lot of money and improve their education by buying almost-new editions of textbooks."

All of the eight faculty recipients were nominated by members of the UTA for demonstrating a commitment to affordable and used textbooks.  Deenik, who as the college's textbook manager is a member of the UTA, nominated VanderVeen for the award.  The UTA evaluated the entries based on the faculty members' efforts and impact to help students.

"The Used Textbook Association recognizes and salutes the important role that faculty have in selecting textbooks and promoting affordable options for students," said Eunice Clark, who is the executive director of the Used Textbook Association.  "We are proud to show our appreciation to these faculty members and, in turn, provide textbook assistance to deserving students on the winning campuses."

The Used Textbook Association was formed in 2006 to advocate the role and value of used textbooks in the marketplace and in turn increase the supply of used textbooks available to students.  The association works to educate students and faculty members on the buy-back process, improve the rate of early adoptions by faculty members, and ensure that textbook merchandising practices are appropriate and meeting the goals of higher learning.

The Faculty Recognition Textbook Scholarship Contest focused on the importance of the faculty members in the textbook process.  In addition to Hope College, the institutions at which the winning faculty members are based are:  Our Lady of the Lake University; Regent University; the University of Alabama; Alma College; Kaskaskia College; Arcadia University; and Southeast Technical Institute.