Education

Cal Poly students came up with an idea to lower textbook costs. It was just signed into law

A group of political science students from Cal Poly joined Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham in Sacramento in April 2018 to lobby for Cunningham’s textbook transparency bill before the Assembly Higher Education Committee.
A group of political science students from Cal Poly joined Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham in Sacramento in April 2018 to lobby for Cunningham’s textbook transparency bill before the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

A bill submitted by Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham that calls for college textbook publishers to tell students about differences between editions — potentially saving students money — was signed into law Tuesday by Governor Brown.

Assembly Bill 2385 aims to lower the amount that University of California, California State University and California community college students spend on textbooks.

Under the old law, textbook publishers were “urged to take specified actions” to inform students about textbook pricing — including providing college faculty considering textbook orders with an explanation of how the newest edition is different from previous editions, according to the bill.

Cunningham’s bill instead urges textbook publishers to post a detailed description of how the newest edition differs from the previous edition in a prominent location on their web sites. Students can then determine which one they need.

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“We need to do more to help students struggling to afford higher education costs,” Cunningham said in a written statement Tuesday. “By teaming up with Cal Poly students, we were able to pass a bill to increase transparency and hold down the costs of textbooks.”

Cunningham’s chief of staff, Nick Mirman, said Tuesday that Cunningham met with a Cal Poly political science class in early 2018 and was asked by students there if he would work with them on legislation to help reduce the costs of textbooks.

The class of about 20 students wrote the language for the bill proposal with input from Cunningham’s office, Mirman said. Several students traveled to Sacramento with Cunningham in April to lobby for the bill before the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

“The experience is a fine example of how even a small group can make a difference and it absolutely represents Cal Poly’s ‘learn by doing’ ethos,” Cunningham said in an email. “College students throughout the state have these Cal Poly students to thank for this important measure.”

It’s a busy week in the state Capitol, with lawmakers facing a deadline to forward bills to the governor’s office before the end of the current legislative session Friday.

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On Monday, lawmakers passed a bill introduced by Cunningham that would broaden protections for adult victims of labor trafficking and pimping. Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto that bill.

Cunningham represents the 35th Assembly District, which covers San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties.

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