TRENTON, NJ – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nancy Pinkin, Benjie Wimberly, and Adam Taliaferro to make textbook more affordable for students of higher education was cleared by an Assembly panel on Monday.

The bill requires each institution of higher education, along with their faculty members, to submit a plan to the Secretary of Higher Education to expand the use of open textbooks and commercial digital learning materials to achieve savings for students enrolled in the institution. “Open textbooks” refer to an open educational resource that either is a textbook or can be used in place of a textbook for a course at an institution of higher education.

“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.”

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Under the bill, the secretary will review the plan 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.

“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 bill requires the secretary to submit a report by July 1 of each academic year to the Governor and the Legislature that provides information on which institutions of higher education are offering open textbooks.

“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 measure was substituted by the Senate version, S-768, and was voted out of the Assembly Higher Education Committee.