District Receives Grant to Expand Use of Free Online Textbooks

A $975,000 federal grant has been awarded to the San Diego Community College District to expand a program that provides free online textbooks and resources to students, saving them the cost of buying expensive books for their classes. A news conference was held at Miramar College on August 3 to make the formal announcement.

The Community Funding Project grant came through the support of Rep. Scott Peters, who sought the funds.

Lower costs for textbooks help community college students deal with one less burden as they pursue their academic goals,” said Rep. Peters. “With rising costs of tuition and textbooks, programs that expand affordability encourage students who need the most support. I thank San Diego Community College District for this work and hope to see more programs like this one in many other districts.”

The grant money will be used to develop more zero-textbook-cost courses, which use digital materials that are free to students. Textbook prices, which have risen more than 800% since 1978, can be a prohibitive cost for many students, who on average spend about $1,200 a year for textbooks.

“The cost of buying textbooks can often be more than our students are paying to take classes at our colleges,” said Carlos O. Cortez, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District. “Offering more zero-textbook-cost classes is part of our district’s commitment to making sure all students have access to education.”

Almost 1,200 classes with free or low-cost textbooks were offered at the district’s four colleges in fall 2020. About 370 faculty members are teaching such classes, with workshops and presentations being held to train additional faculty members.

The grant will expand previous projects from faculty, staff, and the bookstore to develop zero-cost textbook courses. Last year, students at San Diego City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges were able to save over $3 million in educational costs. In addition, educational materials created through this grant will be labeled with a Creative Commons license, which means that colleges and students statewide will have free access to them.

Mathematics currently has the most zero-textbook-cost courses, although numerous other areas, including psychology, business, history and English, offer such classes. In fall 2021, students in zero-textbook-cost classes had a 2% higher success rate than other classes.

Scott Peters news conference