Students who need to go the online distance learning route are often having to do so because they are working, and may even have a family to support. Money can be tight and, aside from the cost of tuition, the cost of textbooks can be financially devastating. California Governor Jerry Brown passed Senate Bills 1052 and 1053, which many hope will cause other states to follow suit.

The new laws authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, will create an online library of digital textbooks that will contain over 50 of the most commonly used textbooks in lower-division courses at the University of California, California State University and state community colleges. Those digital textbooks will be provided free of charge to students at those colleges, including students who are taking those courses online.

The proposed bills are intended to help defray rising educational costs which are already hitting college students hard. Publishing companies initially opposed the bills due to an amendment that required them to offer free copies of textbooks to college libraries. Once that amendment was removed, the publishing companies removed their opposition. Says Steinberg of the bills, “The current cost of traditional textbooks is so high, some college students are forced to struggle through a required class without the textbook, forced to drop classes or sometimes even drop out of college altogether. There’s absolutely no reason a basic biology, statistics or accounting textbook, for example, should cost $200.”

This new step is seen as a huge coup for students who struggle to pay for college, and the hope is that other states will follow suit and offer free electronic textbooks to their students as well. Between this big step, and the introduction of OpenCourseware platforms offering free online college classes, many predict that this is a step in the direction of changing the face of education, and offering access to all.