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Free textbooks offer affordable education

Reed Schneider, Opinion Writer
October 17, 2012
Filed under Opinion, Top Stories

In an effort to move forward in online education, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a proposal to create an open-source website allowing students of 2013 to download popular and expensive textbooks for free.

It’s about time a government takes a step in the right direction. In these times, students need all the help they can get when it comes to paying for college. Universities today continue to hike up the price of tuition to cope with a continuing lack of government funding.

According to the Huffington Post and the College Board, universities saw an average 7.5 percent reduction nationwide in state funding during the 2011 school year from the year prior.

When these public colleges mirror cutbacks in state spending by raising tuition, students suffer for it. It has come down to the sad, simple truth that community colleges aren’t funded by the community anymore.

They have to survive off student tuitions, donations and other sources of revenue.

Yet, the California government might have caught onto something. Maybe someone over there figured out that education of the younger generation could be beneficial to the success of the future.

The legislation contained two bills. In a brief summary, the first one is a proposal for the state to fund 50 open-source digital textbooks. The second is for the establishment of a website to host them, called a California Digital Open Source Library, according to The Atlantic.

However small the effect on students’ immediate spending for college may be, it’s still a start. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the author of the bills, sympathized with the students.

“Many students are paying more than $1,000 every year on their textbooks, sometimes having to choose between buying the books they need or paying for food and other living expenses,” Steinberg said.

With even one or two book prices slashed, the burden of paying for textbooks will lighten considerably, both mentally and financially.

Yet the question remains of whether or not this can work. The government, encouraging the development of open-source and high-quality textbooks, could be overstepping its area of influence.

According to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the federal government already set down regulations regarding textbooks in 2010.

Publishers must give professors textbook prices and detailed information, and typically bundled materials have to be sold separately.

On the other side, the funds for the website and the textbooks will need to be enough to keep the authors interested in updating and creating new textbooks. Otherwise, the high quality nature of official classroom textbooks will evaporate.

The solution is simply to retrieve more government funding.

Yet, the irony still remains steadfast within our society. Society claims education is important for the future and will supply a career.

However, in order to get a higher education, a student has to rack up an immense debt that the career will have to pay for in the future.

With the legislation passed in California, the site should easily find enough support.

It’s only a matter of time before other states, hopefully including Wisconsin, realize free textbooks are a grand idea and a better beginning to affordable education.