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Darts and laurels: Taming the textbook tab

Dart to college costs. College students should be calling their parents with the tally on their textbooks about now, and first-timers could be in for a shock. The College Board says students spend an average of $1,000 a year on books and supplies ó not counting their computers.
Students have gotten savvy in recent years at working their way around paying full price for new books. They can comparison shop online, buy used books, get electronic versions of some books and even rent textbooks.
And they can look ahead to the fall of 2010, when a new federal law will require colleges to list the cost of required materials in online course schedules. Publishers will have to disclose book prices when they market books to professors. These are big steps forward. Many professors don’t know how much textbooks cost when they are choosing course materials. And even if they know the cost of one book, often professors require more than one book per class. Having to add up the cost and list it publicly might open a few professors’ eyes to what they’re asking students to buy. Students and their families will have a better idea of what they’re getting into when courses are selected. Saving a few hundred dollars on textbooks each semester could be a big help.
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Speaking of higher education, laurels and a big welcome to students flowing onto the campuses of area colleges ó Catawba, Livingstone, Pfeiffer and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. RCCC expected about 6,000 students at its two campuses to start classes this week, and the three private colleges each anticipated about a thousand. That’s 9,000 people in a higher ed triangle that stretches from Misenheimer to Concord to Salisbury ó all aiming for bigger and better things and getting an education to achieve it. The colleges make up a vital sector of the local economy, from employing instructors and staff to raising local education and training levels. Even in a downturn ó especially in a downturn ó education gives people hope.
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Dart to the temptations of higher office. The bad news keeps coming for former Gov. Mike Easley. The News & Observer of Raleigh recently reported Easley neglected to disclose his “free” membership to an exclusive golf club ó a perk that would have cost a mere mortal $50,000 over the eight years Easley was governor.
If a free golf club membership can be considered a “gift,” the Old Chatham Golf Club should have shown up in Easley’s ethics disclosure forms, some contend. Easley’s attorney says his client did nothing wrong; the ethics rules require reporting only of gifts from lobbyists or their principals or people doing business with the state, he says. For Easley’s sake, let’s hope he’s right. Clouds hanging over the former governor include the use of free flights, the use of cars, a bargain on a coastal lot and the creation of a job for his wife at N.C. State University. He’s in for stormy weather.

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