September 28, 2012
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a digital textbook bill into law on Thursday of this week that could help undergraduate students reduce college costs.
According to The Sacramento Bee, Brown signed the legislation as he met with students at the Capitol. The bill, intended to help lower students costs, received bipartisan support in the Legislature. Publishing companies, on the other hand, originally were not in favor of it as an earlier provision of the bill required publishing companies to place free copies of textbooks in school libraries.
One of the new laws, Senate Bill 1052, would give students free digital access to 50 widely used lower division textbooks. According to a press release, the books are yet to be selected and developed. The California Open Education Resources Council, a new group of nine faculty members, was formed for just this process. Request for proposals, or RFPs, will be accepted for the textbook development. When the books are complete, they will be placed under a Creative Commons license. The Los Angeles Times reported the textbooks will be developed for use in lower-level classes at University of California and California State University schools as well as schools in the state's community college system.
The press release also reported that Gov. Brown signed a companion law, Senate bill 1053, which will create the California Digital Open Source Library. The bill calls for the creation of a website that would house the free electronic books and other course materials.
"The current cost of traditional textbooks is so high, some college students are forced to struggle through a required class without the textbook, forced to drop classes or sometimes even drop out of college altogether," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who introduced the measures, according to The Sacramento Bee. "There's absolutely no reason a basic biology, statistics or accounting textbook, for example, should cost $200."
The press release noted that approved funding for the legislation earmarks $5 million from the state public college savings plan, ScholarShare Trust, and this is to be matched by private groups and donors. The Los Angeles Times reported that ideally the new books would be available for the start of the 2013-14 school year. Students who are not interested in digital copies should be able to obtain hard copies of these books for $20.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that a number of other bills to help students were also signed into law on Thursday. These included Assembly Bill 970, which mandates that state school officials consult with student associations at least 30 days before publicly announcing a tuition increase. Senate Bill 1349 prevents private and public academic institutions from requiring students or potential students to provide the usernames or passwords to their social media accounts. Senate Bill 1456 requires community college students to meet minimum academic standards before receiving fee waivers due to economic need. Finally, Senate Bill 1525 requires that some schools offer academic scholarships to students that have lost an athletic scholarship due to an injury that occurs while playing their sport.
Compiled by Doresa Banning
"Calif. Governor Signs Bills Giving Digital Textbooks And Other Help To Students," chronicle.com, September 28, 2012, Charles Huckabee
"California Governor Signs Free Digital College Textbook Bills," prnewswire.com, September 27, 2012
"Free digital textbooks offered as Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills," latimesblogs.latimes.com, September 27, 2012, Patrick McGreevy
"Jerry Brown signs laws to provide free digital college textbooks," blogs.sacbee.com, September 27, 2012, David Siders