California · Education

Calif. set aside $115mil for free college textbooks. This top bureaucrat is holding it up.

More than one year after California lawmakers set aside $115 million to expand free textbook programs across the state’s system of 116 community colleges, the money remains stalled in the state chancellor’s office.

The funds have yet to reach the colleges or support the system’s students who often spend hundreds of dollars per semester to buy books.

The funding was approved last summer by lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom, just months after Newsom generated headlines when he called the textbook industry a “racket.” The money is meant to fund degree and certificate programs that will allow students to complete those programs without spending anything on textbooks.

For months, the money has been with the statewide chancellor’s office that oversees the colleges. Officials said they can’t distribute funds until they finish developing an application for the colleges to fill out. That application is expected to be available to the colleges within the next month. They also needed time to build a portal that will allow the college system to track whether the free textbook programs are contributing to student success.

The colleges are waiting for that funding, said James Glapa-Grossklag, dean of educational technology and learning resources at College of the Canyons in northern Los Angeles County. That college already has some free textbook degrees available and could develop more with additional funding.

“My colleagues in the community colleges regularly ask me when we can expect the state chancellor’s office to roll out the funding to the colleges,” added Glapa-Grossklag, who was also formerly the president of the Community College Consortium for Open Educational ResourcesThe consortium advocates for open textbooks and other materials, believing they bring greater access to higher education. Open educational resources include textbooks and other learning materials that are available for free in the public domain and are the main avenue colleges use to provide zero-cost textbooks to students.

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Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.