Lara Leads Oversight Hearing Tackling High Cost of College Textbooks

February 01, 2012

Factors for rising costs, and strategies to control these costs for students discussed

SACRAMENTO – Today, Assembly Member Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) chaired an oversight hearing of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee on the affordability of college textbooks.  The hearing focused on the significant rise in textbook costs for students as well as strategies to help control the costs.

“This was an important opening discussion. Progress has clearly been made, but there is much more left to do to provide real financial relief.  Combined with rising student fees, textbook prices have become an insurmountable financial burden for college students and their families,” said Lara. In today’s digital era, technological advances facilitate the increased use of electronic books, content and curriculum, thereby creating a unique opportunity to reevaluate and reduce the costs of text books. These opportunities, however, also necessitate the re-examination of the appropriate role of government in ensuring the transparency, quality, affordability, and accessibility of instructional materials for all California College students.”

The hearing focused on the 2008, State Auditor’s audit entitled, “Affordability of College Textbooks: Textbook Prices Have Risen Significantly in the Last Four Years, but Some Strategies May Help to Control These Costs for Students” (2007-116).  The audit found that, on average, a full-time student pays between $700 and $900 annually on textbooks.  The causes for the high cost of college textbooks are varied, including increased competition due to the used-textbook market, regular, minimal revisions that may not be warranted, as well as supplemental products, such as CDs and instructional supplements that raise the price and reduce the ability of reselling these products in the used-textbook market.

This oversight hearing also provided the Legislature with information on what is being accomplished by the branches of higher education, faculty, non-profits and publishing community in providing lower cost options to students. Participants discussed strategies and policy considerations that would provide real results to college students in all public branches of higher education – Community Colleges, California State Universities and the campuses under the University of California system.