Textbook Price Transparency Bill Passes Major Legislative Hurdle

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--()--A bill requiring textbook price transparency in California’s higher education systems took a significant step forward this week, passing the Assembly Higher Education Committee unanimously with a bipartisan 11-0 vote.

AB 2624, authored by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, will empower students to make informed choices by requiring the California State Universities (CSU) and California Community Colleges (CCC), and encouraging the University of California (UC), to display the estimated cost of course materials for 75% of courses offered on the online course schedule platform.

The bill is sponsored by the Michelson Center for Public Policy (MCPP).

Gary K. Michelson, M.D., MCPP founder, and co-chair, praised Assemblymember Kalra and the Assembly Higher Education Committee’s action to make the cost of college more transparent.

“With skyrocketing prices for housing, food, transportation, and healthcare, our students are suffering like never before. The cost of textbooks is an added burden, and no student should be surprised by high-cost materials,” said Michelson. “This bill will ensure that students know upfront how much they will have to pay.”

The Federal Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 requires campuses receiving federal funds to disclose textbook costs and ISBN numbers for textbooks on the course schedule. In the decade since the Higher Education Opportunity Act was enacted, the breadth of materials students must purchase has widened to include digital homework platforms and other new technologies that are not covered by current law.

“I am grateful to my colleagues on the Assembly Higher Education Committee for passing AB 2624 with bipartisan support,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “AB 2624 is a simple measure to empower students to make informed decisions for course registration in a manner that works best for them financially.”

Course materials make up a significant portion of the costs of postsecondary education, especially at community colleges. Students in California continue to struggle to afford instructional materials, and a 2020 survey at CSU Channel Islands found that 65% of students reported skipping buying a textbook due to cost. This bill would close this price transparency gap by requiring colleges to “prominently display the estimated costs for each course of all required course materials and fees directly related to those materials, for no less than 75% of classes listed on the online campus schedule.”

“Course materials are one of the largest out-of-pocket expenses we face and one of the least predictable,” said Radha Patel, CALPIRG Students UCLA Chapter Chair Affordable Textbook Campaign Coordinator and sociology student. “Not knowing the cost of materials until the week before classes makes it hard for me to plan and budget for the year, which is why I’m thrilled to see AB 2624 advance out of committee. The full disclosure of course material costs on the course schedule will help students like me plan to succeed.”

The bill next advances to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.

About the Michelson Center for Public Policy

The Michelson Center for Public Policy is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization that propels legislative change through meaningful collaboration with elected officials, government agencies, and civic leaders to achieve positive outcomes in education, equity, medical research, and animal welfare. The Michelson Center for Public Policy is an affiliated but separate organization from the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations (Michelson 20MM Foundation, Michelson Found Animals Foundation, and Michelson Medical Research Foundation) and complements the Michelson Philanthropies’ thought leadership and expertise with bold and effective advocacy. For more information, visit www.michelsonpolicy.org.


Geoffrey Baum