Senate Bill (SB) 1359 and Beyond – Textbook Affordability and Transparency

Access this page directly via the following: Access the OER and ZTC page for related information.

New Cost Transparency Requirements – In Effect 1/1/2025

66406.9 of California Education Code (CEC) was modified in 2023. CEC 66406.9 is the law requiring the marking of no-cost sections in our course schedules. The latest change expanded what costs must be available in our schedules.

(3) Prominently display, by means that may include a link to a separate internet web page, the estimated costs for each course of all required course materials and fees directly related to those materials, for no less than 40 percent by January 1, 2025, 55 percent by January 1, 2026, 65 percent by January 1, 2027, and 75 percent by January 1, 2028, of the total number of courses on the online campus course schedule for which a faculty member or course instructor has been assigned. “Course materials” as used in this paragraph includes digital or physical textbooks, devices such as calculators and remote attendance platforms, and software subscriptions. (emphasis added)

In May of 2024, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office issued guidance related to AB 607/Education Code §66406.9: Course Materials Cost Publication. This guidance memo references the language from the legislation that

California Community Colleges Course Fee Guidelines, Regulations, and Laws

SB 1359 (California Education Code 66406.9) Overview

A logical starting point for understanding what SB 1359 is about is a review of the Senate Bill 1359 (Block, 2016) Bill Language. While the language of the legislation may appear unambiguous, the how and what of its implementation have proved challenging. In order to address the identified issues, a short document (DRAFT SB 1359 Recommendations 2-23-20) and a resolution (DRAFT SB 1359 Resolution – February 21, 2020) were prepared for the Spring 2020 Academic Senate Plenary that was cancelled as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Fall 2020 Plenary, several resolutions related to this requirement and cost-transparency more generally were adopted:

California State University – SB 1359 Resources – This collection includes guidance from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office

Lowering CCC Costs: No-Cost Designation Mandates and Low-Cost Designation Options – Senate Rostrum Article, October 2018

SB 1359 requires the “marking” of no cost sections – a requirement that is not only seen in California. Read Marking Open and Affordable Courses: Best Practices and Case Studies to learn more about this practice.

Course Schedules and Course Materials

“Marking” no-cost or zero textbook cost (ZTC) sections in course schedules may be an initial challenge due to the need to “Clearly highlight, by means that may include a symbol or logo in a conspicuous place on the online campus course schedule” (California Education Code 66406.9). But the requirement that course schedules provide accurate information about the course materials that students must purchase is not new. The excerpt below, from Marking Open and Affordable Courses: Best Practices and Case Studies, explains that institutions of higher education that receive financial assistance from the federal government have been required to “ensure that students had access to textbook information at the time of registration” for over a decade.

In 2007, Congress took up the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965, the law governing the nation’s college and university policies, which was ultimately achieved with the passage of the (HEOA) in 2008. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois championed the issue of textbook affordability during the process, drafting a set of provisions that were ultimately codified into law under Section 133 (20 USC 1015b). Among the provisions was a requirement that colleges and universities eligible for funding must, to the maximum extent practicable, disclose the ISBN and retail price of college textbooks in the online course schedule students use for registration. The textbook information provisions took effect on July 1, 2010, and were evaluated by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2013. The relevant portion of Section 133 reads:

To the maximum extent practicable, each institution of higher education receiving Federal financial assistance shall—

  1. disclose, on the institution’s Internet course schedule and in a manner of the institution’s choosing, the International Standard Book Number and retail price information of required and recommended college textbooks and supplemental materials for each course listed in the institution’s course schedule used for preregistration and registration purposes, except that—
    1. if the International Standard Book Number is not available for such college textbook or supplemental material, then the institution shall include in the Internet course schedule the author, title, publisher, and copyright date for such college textbook or supplemental material; and
    2. if the institution determines that the disclosure of the information described in this subsection is not practicable for a college textbook or supplemental material, then the institution shall so indicate by placing the designation “To Be Determined” in lieu of the information required under this subsection; and
  2. if applicable, include on the institution’s written course schedule a notice that textbook information is available on the institution’s Internet course schedule, and the Internet address for such schedule.

This provision instigated a shift in the responsibility of institutions for providing textbook information to students. Historically, textbook information was typically not available at the time students registered for courses (often several months in advance). Visiting the college bookstore prior to the start of the term was often the most reliable way to get information about book adoptions. Following the passage of HEOA, institutions had just under two years to update their systems to ensure that students had access to textbook information at the time of registration.

Source: Chapter 1, State and Federal Legislation, in Marking Open and Affordable Courses: Best Practices and Case Studies.

SB 1359 Implementation Survey Data and Related ASCCC Resolutions

The ASCCC initiated an annual survey in the fall term of 2018 in order to track the implementation of SB 1359. The findings of this survey have tracked the progress of the colleges as they progressed from focusing on the technical how of adding a no-cost marker to their online schedules to determining what criteria must be met for a course section to receive that designation and how to integrate this identification into into existing processes. Learn more about the ASCCC OERI’s SB 1359 Implementation Surveys – and related ASCCC positions.

Challenges with respect to this requirement emerge at every step of marking a course, from how the sections that receive the mark are identified to making the mark visible in course schedules. At the first step, there is an unresolved debate regarding whether sections without a textbook should be marked and the identification of which sections receive the mark is generally a stand-alone process that has no connection to the process of adopting a commercial text. With respect to the mark being visible in course schedules, we see a wide array of practices – some effective and some that are questionable. Despite the fact that there are examples of effective implementations across all of the commonly used technologies, over 30 of the colleges are not compliant as of a review of Fall 2021 schedules.

SB 1359 PowerPoints and Webinars

Learn more about the implementation of SB 1359 by viewing our collection of SB 1359 PowerPoints and archived webinars.

SB 1359 Local Resource Samples

How are colleges implementing SB 1359? View our collection of SB 1359 Local Resource Samples to guide perfecting your implementation. Given the unresolved challenges of determining exactly what should be marked and the best approach for identifying qualifying sections, these samples are offered as approaches to consider – not as provide solutions.

This page last updated May 22, 2024.