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Free Digital Textbooks, More For-Profit Accountability Coming to California

As reported by Inside Higher Ed, new laws enacted in California will have significant impacts on higher education in the state. The Los Angeles Times reports that two companion pieces of legislation—Senate Bills 1052 and 1053—will create the infrastructure to support access to free digital textbooks for the top 50 lower division courses offered by the University of California, the California State University, and California community colleges. SB 1052 establishes the California Open Education Resources Council to oversee the development of the digital texts, while SB 1053 mandates the creation of the California Digital Open Source Library through which they will be made accessible to the public.

Another law—Assembly Bill 2296—amends the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 to require greater reporting to the state and the public on the academic operations and outcomes of for-profit higher education institutions. For example, the law extends the prohibition against for-profit institutions offering unaccredited doctoral degree programs without disclosing that the programs are unaccredited to master’s, bachelor’s, and associate’s programs as well. Likewise, the impact of such programs’ lack of accreditation on the ability of their graduates to sit for licensure in various professional fields must also be disclosed. Another key provision mandates that all for-profit institutions provide prospective students with a fact sheet detailing graduates’ key outcomes, such as salary information and loan default rates. Such proposals mirror higher education accountability steps taken at the federal level, such as the U.S. Department of Education's "gainful employment" regulations, which were severely limited by a federal district court decision against ED earlier this year.


Finally, a sigh of relief for college students.  Purchasing textbooks can be overwhelmeing and discouraging.  The thought of having textbooks available for the most popular 50 lower division class is a great and wonderful idea.  Studnets have a difficult time purchasing textbooks and this will definitely put a smile on someones face.