As a recent UC Berkeley graduate, I’ve witnessed the numerous walk-outs, protests, and riots that have occurred in the past few years surrounding budget cuts in the California education system. I remember the day in November, three years ago, of when dozens of police officers from UC Berkeley, UCSF, the city of Berkeley, and the Alameda County Sheriff’s department, were on the UC Berkeley campus. They surrounded Wheeler Hall, which had been occupied by 40 student protesters demanding solutions to the budget cuts and tuition hikes. I remember watching the police officers trying to control the crowd of hundreds of additional protesters that had formed and thinking to myself, something is seriously wrong here.
That was in 2009, and three years later I thought there would be a solution to the budget crisis in California by now. But tuition costs have only gone up in years since. While there don’t seem to be any immediate solutions to the tuition hikes in the California state college system, today, at least, there is some good news. Legislation passed which, while it might not solve all of the state’s college students’ financial woes, is certainly a baby step in the right direction.
Yesterday Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that will give college students access to free online textbooks for undergrad courses within the University of California, California State University, and California community college systems.
The legislation is in the form of two bills, SB 1052 and SB 1053, which were created in the hopes that giving college students access to free digital textbooks for 50 of the most widely taken lower-division courses will help make college a bit more affordable for California students, particularly in a time when budget cuts have made college prohibitively expensive for some.
Under SB 1052, California would establish the California Open Education Resources Council (COERC), a faculty-run council that will select and develop the free digital textbooks for students. Under the companion bill SB 1053, the state will create an open source library to house these digital textbooks.
Publishing companies that previously objected to the bills removed their opposition, and amendments removed a requirement that publishers provide free copies of their textbooks in college libraries.