UH changes book loan policy

HOUSTON It all revolves around a deal between the university and its on-campus Barnes & Noble book store.

These book loans provide a few hundred dollars each semester for students to buy their books. Up until this year, students have been able to spend the loans both on campus and off. That all changed this semester and it's causing some unexpected headaches for some students.

At the University of Houston on-campus book store, there is no shortage of books, except for the one Phat Mach needed for his physics class.

"When I had the book loan ready, I came here and they didn't have my book and I don't know what to do. And my homework has to be turned in," said Mach.

Mach wanted to take his student book loan to an off-campus store to buy the books, but he couldn't because starting this semester, U of H computerized its book loan program. As a result, the loans can only be used at the on-campus Barnes & Noble.

"They simply had some new interface program with the campus book store, and they just decided not to offer us the same interface program," said Matthew Bublitz, who is manager of the off-campus college book store.

Bublitz says being left out of the book loan program cuts into his bottom line and the students' choices. But the university says since the loan is a university program, it makes sense to keep the dollars on campus.

"Because it is our book store on campus, and it is a process that we manage, certainly it is most appropriate for us to provide this at our U of H book store," said UH Asst. Vice President Emily Messa.

However, students say book prices vary wildly, so they like choices.

For example, a used Discovering Computers 2008 book is $87.25 at the UH book store, $81.50 at the off-campus book store, and just $10 on Amazon.com. Prices for a new Human Anatomy & Physiology book are $92.80 on-campus, $89 off-campus, and $75 online.

Mach eventually bought his book online, though too late to catch up with some homework.

"I have, like, four zero assignments," said Mach.

The university points out that its book store offers a price-matching policy and they do encourage students to shop around. So far, the university says they are not aware of a widespread textbook shortage.

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