Sen. Chris Brown’s legislation to make college more affordable for middle-class families through the use of open source and freely available textbooks has been signed into law. (SenateNJ.com)

TRENTON – Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill sponsored by State Sen. Chris Brown to achieve savings for middle-class families by requiring New Jersey’s colleges and universities to offer open license and freely available textbooks to students.

“Paying for college is a never ending experience in sticker shock for middle class families,” Brown said. “While the conversation to make college more affordable starts with tuition, we have to include the outrageous cost of textbooks.”

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of textbooks has actually outpaced the cost of tuition. Between 2006 and 2016, the cost of textbooks increased by 88%. The College Board recommends students set aside at least $1,200 a year for textbooks.

“In this age of digital technology, it makes sense to find savings in using open license textbooks and resources available to the public online,” Brown said.

According to reports, publishers bundle their textbooks and other course study materials, particularly for mandatory introductory courses, with access codes which expire at the end of the semester. So, instead of students being able to buy used textbooks from previous owners, they have to buy new textbooks at retail prices in order to unlock the access code. Because of the high cost, many students chose not to buy new textbooks, although not having the study material may hurt their grades.

“Let’s face it, calculus hasn’t changed in hundreds of years, so why should students be forced to buy a new edition textbook for $100 or more?” Brown said.

Under the new law, colleges and universities must submit plans to the Secretary of Higher Education to expand the use of open textbooks and commercial digital learning materials in order to achieve savings for students enrolled in the institution by next year.

“Every parent hopes to see their children become more successful than themselves. It’s part of the American dream that each succeeding generation does better than the last, and college is the path to making that dream become a reality, which is why we have to keep college affordable for our middle class families,” Brown said.