California Students Could Save $1 Billion Downloading Textbooks

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Doug began his career as a copy boy at the New York Times, and then...
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SACRAMENTO (KCBS) – Public colleges in California can defray the cost of inevitable tuition and fee hikes by making textbooks available online for download, a leading state lawmaker said Wednesday.

“Require the 3 higher education systems in California to offer the 50 most popular text books for $20 or less,” through an open source online library, argued state Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Steinberg even envisions making some books available free of charge.

Each student could save on average $1,000 a year under a plan Steinberg described as a direct response to the Occupy Wall Street protests on California college campuses.

“While fee increases are obviously a great hardship on students, the cost of instructional materials are often an even greater burden,” he said.

Steinberg estimated the combined savings could top $1 billion a year if community colleges, the University of California and the California State University system all compiled digital libraries of the bulky, expensive textbooks typically assigned in required core courses.

“To take Calculus now in college, the text book is $224. Statistics $150,” he said.

About three quarters of the UC Riverside students who responded to a 2010 survey about textbook purchasing reported not buying at least some their required books because they were having trouble with expenses. Those students often relied on reserve or library copies instead.

A 2009 experiment by the Department of Education to make K-12 textbooks available in public schools met resistance from publishers.

Steinberg acknowledged the state would have to spend a few million dollars to set up the system, an investment he said could offset tuition likely to rise again as even deeper state budget cuts loom.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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