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December 15, 2011 11:00 AM California College Costs

By Daniel Luzer

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At the same time Governor Jerry Brown announced some $202 million cuts to California higher education, one member of the Golden State legislature wants to improve public higher education costs. Well, sort of.

According to an article by Don Thompson in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The leader of the state Senate wants to offer an electronic library of free basic textbooks for college students in a bid to offset higher university fees.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Tuesday he will offer legislation next year to create 50 textbooks for the most common college classes. He plans to seek the $25 million startup cost, even as California cuts spending in education and other areas in response to a lingering multibillion dollar deficit.

The sentiment behind this is perhaps admirable, but realistically this proposal, even if enacted, would have little impact on the cost of college.

The governor plans to cut funding for the community college system by $102 million. Another $100 million or so will come from the University of California and California State. Students are going to feel those cuts, either in the form of decreased quality or increased tuition. That’s the really seriously problem going on in California higher education.

Given this situation, this online textbook fad—which even if successfully implemented will save students maybe $1,000 a year—isn’t going to matter much at all, is it?

Incidentally, when Steinberg graduated from UCLA the in-state education fee was about $766 a year; today it’s more than $12,000.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer