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Assembly Democrats’ Bill to Make College Textbooks More Affordable Heads to Governor

Aiming to ease some of the financial burden facing college students, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nancy Pinkin, Mila Jasey, Wayne DeAngelo, Joe Danielsen, Benjie Wimberly, Angela McKnight, and Adam Taliaferro to expand the use of digital alternatives to textbooks was approved Monday by the full Assembly, 77-0. The bill (A-327-3254-1149) requires each institution of higher education to submit a plan to the Secretary of Higher Education to expand the use of open textbooks and commercial digital learning materials. "Open textbooks" are educational resources for college courses that are available online for free or at a reduced cost. "The ever-increasing prices of college textbooks are simply becoming unreasonable," said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). "By implementing open textbooks in college courses, students will save a significant amount of money as well as lower both the amount of and the stresses of debt after college." "The average college student in the U.S. spends over $1,200 a year on books and supplies. Sometimes a single book can cost $200," said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). "Over the course of four years, students may end up spending thousands of dollars in order to have the tools they need to meet the demands of their classes. It makes much more sense to encourage colleges to take advantage of the free and affordable resources available online." "Open textbooks are modernizing the way college students learn," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex), "Not only are open textbooks substantially more affordable, they also provide the most up-to-date information because they can be revised as soon new developments come to light. In this way, open textbooks will help colleges deliver a higher quality of education." Under the bill, the Secretary would review plans submitted by colleges to ensure that it has the potential to: · Achieve the highest level of savings for students through the expanded use of open textbooks in courses offered by the institution; · Produce the highest quality open textbooks that can be easily utilized and adapted by faculty members; · Ensure that the institution is making a good faith effort to provide open textbooks to students; and · Provide for the implementation of programs which reduce the cost of commercial digital learning materials in line with federal regulations. "As we explore ways to make college more affordable, it's important for us to look at student expenses beyond tuition," said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset). "Room and board, meal plans and books can potentially surpass the cost of tuition. If we have an opportunity to ease the financial burden on students by using modern alternatives to textbooks, we should absolutely take it." "There are many advantages when it comes to colleges switching to open textbooks," said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). "We are helping the environment by saving endless amounts of paper, we are helping students to eat healthier as they will have more to spend on food choices as opposed to class materials, and we are helping to make college more affordable in New Jersey. Simply put, there is no down side to bringing open textbooks to college campuses." "The internet has significantly changed how students approach their coursework in college," said McKnight (D-Hudson). "Gone are the days when students go to the library to search through dozens of books to find the answers they need. Now, all of the information in the world is available at the click of a button. Open textbooks offer the same instant, convenient access, while at the same time save students money." "By professors using digital versions of books, study materials will instantly become more accessible to college students with hectic schedules who simply may not have the time to find a place to sit and read a textbook," said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). "Using open textbooks will ultimately help to increase the college graduation rate in our state. This will, in turn, help both our job market and our economy." The Senate on Monday also approved the measure by a vote of 37-0. The bill now heads to the Governor's desk.

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