Wednesday, January 16, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 45

Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on May 9th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 10 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 10

Bill to lower textbook costs passes Assembly committee


In a survey of 609 students conducted by Allan Hancock College's Office of Institutional Effectiveness in 2017, 65 percent of students said they had dropped a class due to the price of a required textbook. Sixty-one percent of students surveyed said they spend at least $200 on textbooks each semester, and 45 percent said they had avoided registering for courses with costly required textbooks.

"I think textbook pricing is something of a racket," California Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo) told the Sun.

Allan Hancock College student Janet Cruz-Reyes, president of the Associated Student Body Government, spoke at a press conference on Jan. 31 about how she and other students will benefit from Hancock’s Zero Textbook Cost Degrees program.

In an effort to reduce costs of the pricey textbooks, Cunningham crafted Assembly Bill 2385.

The bill, which Cunningham said he developed with a group of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students studying political science, would encourage publishers to include more detailed descriptions on ways that newer, more expensive editions of textbooks differ from previous editions.

Those details—including any changes in text, illustrations, statistics, graphics, reordering, renaming, and added or deleted chapters—would be prominently posted on publishers' websites, according to the bill text. This, Cunningham said, would allow students to better decide whether they really need to buy newer editions of textbooks.

AB 2385 would also pressure publishers to unbundle instructional materials like textbooks, CD-ROMs, and workbooks that are often sold together at high prices.

The idea for the bill was developed by several students at Cal Poly, who Cunningham said worked on the bill as part of a political science class. Several of those students even testified on behalf of the bill in Sacramento on April 24, when it passed the Assembly Higher Education Committee 12-0.

"That's great because it gives you momentum," Cunningham said, adding that the textbook bill still needs to pass the Assembly floor, the Senate Higher Education Committee, the Senate floor, and then the governor's desk in order to be enacted.

Although the bill wouldn't force publishers to comply, Cunningham said a state mandate could be considered if publishing companies don't adhere to the bill's guidelines.

"We crafted a bill that I think will give consumers more power," Cunningham said.

But Hancock's political science professor Jessica Scarffe said that while newer editions of textbooks are significantly more expensive than used editions, simply urging publishers to inform students of edition changes may not be effective.

"I don't know that it does any harm, but I don't know that it's going to make real significant difference," Scarffe told the Sun. "If some publishers do it, it could help some students."

Scarffe also directs Hancock's Zero Textbook Cost Degrees program, which was launched this year and allows students to complete three associate degrees for transfer without purchasing a single textbook. Both on-campus and online classes are offered, Scarffe said, and more than 21 Hancock faculty members are working to convert at least one of their classes into zero textbook cost.

Still, Scarffe said the best way to decrease textbook costs would be to convince publishing companies to stop profiting off of struggling college students.

"I know that just means publishers are going to have to make money somewhere else," Scarffe said, "but I think they can." 

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash writes School Scene each week. Information can be sent to the Sun via mail, fax, or email at

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