Governor Provides Cost Savings for California College Students, Signs Steinberg’s Digital Textbook Legislation

September 27, 2012

(Sacramento) – The use of 21st century technology to bring significant savings in textbook costs for California college students will be made possible under two measures the Governor signed into law today. The companion bills by Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, SB 1052 and SB 1053, will establish development of open source digital textbooks for 50 lower division courses which college students can electronically access for free, or for a modest cost of $20 per printed textbook.

“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. There’s absolutely no reason a basic biology, statistics or accounting textbook, for example, should cost $200,” said Steinberg. “The Governor has shown great vision in signing this legislation as a way to help tens of thousands of students and families with the increasing expenses of higher education. Any avenue towards reducing those costs opens more doors for our students, and that in turn continues development of the educated workforce we need to fuel California’s economic engine.”

SB 1052 provides for a competitive bidding process to develop digital textbooks and course materials for these strategically chosen lower division college classes. This bill creates the California Open Education Resources Council (COERC), comprised of faculty members from each of the state’s public college and university systems, to develop the list of courses, create and oversee the approval process for the digital materials, and to establish a process whereby faculty, publishers, education foundations and other interested parties may apply to generate the 50 open source textbooks and courseware.

The companion measure, SB 1053, creates the California Digital Open Source Library to house the materials. Academic freedom for faculty will be enhanced and existing open education resources that meet quality specifications may also be used.

Using a computer or mobile device, students will be able to access the textbooks through the digital open source library with the option of buying a printed version for around $20. The materials would be placed under a “Creative Commons” licensing structure that not only allows students and faculty free access, but would also allow instructors to create customized materials from the textbooks and other courseware. The California Open Education Resources Council will review and approve the textbooks and materials to ensure they meet the rigorous standards of college core curricula.

Under provisions of the measures, the faculty senates of the UC, CSU and California Community College systems will each appoint three members to serve on the council. The COERC is to be formed by April 1, 2013, and is required to report progress on the programs implementation to the Legislature and the Governor by July 1, 2013. The council is also required to solicit input from students in the development of digital materials.

Under separate budget trailer bill legislation (SB 1028) private funding is required for implementation of the program. While five million dollars has been appropriated from the Golden State Scholarshare Trust Fund, that money can only be used as it is matched dollar-for-dollar by private foundation or individual donations.

SB 1052 and SB 1053 passed both houses of the Legislature with strong bipartisan votes. The bills are supported by college and university administrators, student and faculty organizations, and several higher education associations. There was no formal opposition.