Senate Passes Steinberg’s Measures to Save Millions in College Textbook Costs

May 30, 2012

(Sacramento) - With strong bipartisan support, two measures which will save individual California college students thousands of dollars in textbook costs have been approved by the Senate. The bills authored by Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg would establish Open Education Resources (OER) in the form of free or low cost digital college textbooks for the most common lower division courses in the UC, CSU and California Community College systems.  

SB 1052, which creates the guidelines and process to develop the digital textbooks and courseware, passed by a vote of 32 – 2. SB 1053, a companion bill to create a state digital library as a repository for the materials, passed by a vote of 33 – 2.

“As college students and their families struggle with college costs in this difficult time, let’s do what we can with the tools that we have. Through open educational resources, we can use technology to provide high quality college textbooks at a fraction of today’s costs,” said Steinberg (D-Sacramento). “Faculty, publishers and others can unleash their entrepreneurial spirit through the competitive bidding process in creating these materials. Our students and California’s economy will reap the benefits.”

The measures allow for competitive bids to create digital textbooks for the 50 most commonly taken lower division college courses.   A California Open Education Resources Council, comprised of faculty members from each of the state’s public college systems, will oversee the process and approve the materials to ensure the high standards demanded by the UC, CSU and community colleges.

Faculty will not be mandated to use the materials but if they choose to do so, they can provide the lower cost option for students. Textbooks will be available for free in a digital format or in a print version for approximately $20. Currently, many students spend more than $1,000 a year for traditional textbooks.

Through a “Creative Commons” licensing structure, faculty and instructors would be able to adapt the materials to customize them for their courses. The digital format also allows the textbooks to be updated quickly and inexpensively, sparing students the costs often associated with new editions that are currently often published every two or three years.

SB 1052 and SB 1053 are only operative as financial support is available through a state budget appropriation, federal or private foundation funds, or any combination of funding sources.