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Calif. Governor Signs Bills Giving Digital Textbooks and Other Help to Students

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Thursday a number of bills affecting California colleges and their students, including two measures designed to provide students with access to free online textbooks for 50 undergraduate courses. The measures (Senate Bills 1052 and 1053) establish a nine-member faculty council that will identify the classes for which open-source digital textbooks should be developed and oversee the texts’ development, and create a digital library to house the textbooks and other courseware. “There’s absolutely no reason a basic biology, statistics, or accounting textbook, for example, should cost $200,” the State Senate’s president pro tempore, Darrell Steinberg, author of the two bills, said in a written statement.

Other measures signed into law on Thursday include:

SB 1349, which prohibits public and private universities from requiring students or prospective students to disclose their user names or passwords to social-media sites like Twitter and Facebook. A statement on the Web site of the governor’s office says the law “is designed to stop a growing trend of colleges and universities snooping into student social-media accounts, particularly those of student athletes.” A related bill, AB 1844, prohibits employers from demanding similar information from employees or job applicants.

AB 970, which requires officials of the University of California and California State University to provide more advance notice when raising tuition. The bill requires the universities to consult with student associations at least 30 days before notifying the public of a proposed tuition increase. The universities also must delay approval of any tuition increases until at least 45 days after holding a public meeting on such a proposal, and they cannot put an increase into effect until at least 90 days after approving it.

SB 1456, which is designed to help community-college students complete their degrees or transfer to a four-year institution. The bill requires the colleges to provide more support services to students and to report more data on students’ academic progress. It also requires students to meet minimum academic standards to receive fee waivers based on economic need.

SB 1525, a “student-athlete bill of rights” that would require the four biggest college athletics programs in the state to provide more financial protections to students who suffer career-ending injuries while playing their sport. The new law applies to institutions that receive more than $10-million annually in sports media revenue, which are the Universities of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, and Stanford University. It requires the universities to pay future medical costs for on-the-field injuries, and to give academic scholarships to students who lose their athletic scholarships if they are injured while playing their sport.

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