Recent news has taken place in the realm of free online textbooks! On March 5th, several thousands of students took to marching for a mile long rally from South Side Park to the Capital Building in Sacramento, CA all to promote lowering the costs of higher education. The rally could definitely be seen as a success in helping bring awareness to the subject of increasing tuition costs and the harsh reality that many people living in America are in a serious financial mess from tens of thousands of dollars in student loan bills.
Van Jones, founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, spoke at the rally and put the thoughts of many into a terse and accurate consensus of the current state of education here in California and through out the academic corridors of America. As reported by CSUN’s Daily Sundial, Jones said to students “You are not asking for charity. You are just asking for the same opportunity that my generation had. We’re not talking about charity, we’re talking about a return on investment,” he said. The last part “return on investment” really stuck with me as a simple window into the minds of what students are truly looking for when they go to a university, and it’s obvious why when the aforementioned reality of the situation is taken into consideration. Students are losing hope that higher education can solve some of their problems, especially when the “receipt" just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
The rally was blasted onto social media websites like Twitter, helping to spread the word online. There are several videos of the rally on Youtube, here is one by The Daily Californian that gives a nice overview of what the rally was like:
Senator Darrell Steinberg, representing the Senate Bills 1052 and 1053 partly designed to reduce the price of textbooks for introductory/lower-level classes, also spoke at the rally in Sacramento and discussed the newly proposed bills. The fact that the support for these kinds of legislation is so strong is a testament to the current attitude towards the price of higher education in California and elsewhere and how that attitude is infiltrating its way into Congress. Rightfully so, too. After all, how much longer can students take not having access to free online textbooks when they need them most, which is right now!
An article in the Sacramento Bee describes the legislative initiatives (1052 & 1053): “One of the measures would earmark $25 million for an effort to develop texts and other materials for the 50 most widely taken lower division classes. Another would create an open source digital library. Steinberg believes the state, working with publishers and academics, could provide texts for free online or $20 for a printed copy.”
Hopefully with new pieces of legislation like the ones proposed by Steinberg along with fellow Senator Elaine Alquist, and much greater student support for the ideas purported by such legislation and in general across campuses, the overall price of education will go down. Especially the price of textbooks.