A student in a blue polo shirt wears headphones while working on a laptop

District receives grant to expand use of free online textbooks

June 16, 2022 | San Diego Community College District

A $975,000 federal grant has been awarded to the San Diego Community College District to expand a program that provides free online textbooks and resources to students, saving them the cost of buying expensive books for their classes.

The Community Funding Project grant came through the support of Rep. Scott Peters, who sought the funds.

“Students in higher education experience high levels of stress and face many challenges, but paying for essential materials like textbooks should not be one of them,” said Rep. Scott Peters. “The San Diego Community College District’s program that provides free online textbooks and resources is a shining example of how we should support students in pursuing their academic goals. My office holds SDCCD in high regard and looks forward to seeing how else community project funding grants are put to use.”

The grant money will be used to develop more low-cost print options or zero-textbook-cost courses, which use digital materials that are free to students. Textbook prices, which have risen more than 800% since 1978, can be a prohibitive cost for many students, who on average spend about $1,200 a year for textbooks.

“The cost of buying textbooks can often be more than our students are paying to take classes at our colleges,” said Carlos O. Cortez, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District. “Offering more zero-textbook-cost classes is part of our district’s commitment to making sure all students have access to education.”

Almost 5,500 classes with free or low-cost textbooks were offered at the district’s four colleges in fall 2020. About 1,900 faculty members are teaching such classes, with workshops and presentations being held to train additional faculty members.

The grant will expand previous projects from faculty, staff, and the bookstore to create free and low-cost options for classes. In 2022-23 alone, SDCCD students were able to save over $3 million in educational costs.

Mathematics currently has the most zero-textbook-cost courses, although numerous other areas, including psychology, business, history and English, offer such classes. In fall 2021, students in zero-textbook-cost classes had a 2% higher success rate than other classes.

The SDCCD has submitted three new requests for fiscal year 2023 funding to Peters, Rep. Juan Vargas and Rep. Sara Jacobs. The requests range from $1.2 million to $1.5 million and all have been advanced to the House Appropriations Committee.

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