Oppose Reliance on Textbook Publishers to Achieve Zero Textbook Cost

Spring 2022; Resolution Number 3.03

Whereas, California Education Code §78052 (a) states that “It is the intent of the Legislature that community college districts develop and implement zero-textbook-cost degrees and develop open educational resources for courses to reduce the overall cost of education for students and decrease the time it takes students to complete degree programs,” a goal that can promote student success without impinging on either academic freedom or faculty’s rights to choose appropriate instructional materials;

Whereas, California Education Code §78052 establishes that community college districts that develop and implement zero-textbook-cost degrees shall do the following:

  • prioritize the development and implementation of a degree from an existing associate degree for transfer and, to the extent possible, prioritize the adaptation of existing open educational resources through existing open educational resources initiatives, or elsewhere, before creating new content.
  • develop degrees with consideration for sustainability after grant funding is exhausted, including how content is updated and presented.
  • develop and implement a degree that other community college districts can use or adapt, and post each degree, and the contents of the degree, on the online clearinghouse of information established pursuant to Item 6870-101-0001 of the Budget Act of 2016, or a successor internet website. All open educational resources used as learning materials for a degree developed pursuant to this section shall be added to the California Digital Open Source Library established in Section 66408. Testing and assessment materials posted online pursuant to this paragraph shall be safeguarded to maintain the integrity of those materials. This paragraph shall not be construed to prohibit faculty from providing sample test and assessment materials to students;

Whereas, Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) and similar funding have been used to purchase textbooks for students, an efficient and temporary approach to textbook affordability that does not meet the intent or requirements established in California Education Code §78052; and

Whereas, Governor Gavin Newsom expressed a commitment to lowering costs for students by disrupting the entire system of commercial textbook publishing during his press conference unveiling his 2021 – 2022 budget proposal, saying he was “committed” to addressing the “usurious costs associated with textbooks,”[1] which emphasizes his interest in seeing the state’s substantial financial commitment to zero-textbook-cost degrees implemented in ways that are consistent with the intent of California Education Code §78052 through long-term, sustainable solutions rather than primarily through short-term solutions such as funding for one-time or temporary purchases from commercial publishers;

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges support the stated intent of California Education Code §78052, recognizing the importance of eliminating or reducing textbook costs in a sustainable manner while still preserving the faculty’s right and responsibility under academic freedom to select the most appropriate instructional materials, whether digital or in print; and

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges oppose the use of mechanisms to achieve zero-textbook-costs that are not sustainable and are inconsistent with the intent of California Education Code §78052.

[1] Zinshteyn, Mikhail. (2021, January 13).  “Newsom calls textbooks ‘racket,’ proposes money to create free ones.” CalMatters. https://calmatters.org/education/2021/01/newsom-fund-free-textbooks/.