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The San Diego Community College District has received a $975,000 federal grant to expand a program providing free online textbooks and resources to students, it was announced Thursday.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, secured the funding following a request from the district.

“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,” Peters said. “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,” he said.

The nearly a million dollars in grant money will be used to “develop more low-cost print options or zero-textbook-cost courses,” according to a district statement, which use digital materials that are free to students.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, textbook prices have risen more than 1,000% since 1977 and 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 — City, Mesa, Miramar and College of Continuing Education — in fall 2020. Around 1,900 faculty members are teaching such classes, with workshops and presentations being held to train additional faculty members.

This grant is intended to expand previous projects from faculty, staff and the bookstore to create free and low-cost options for classes. According to district data, in 2022-23 alone, district students were able to save more $3 million in educational costs. Math courses are the most zero- textbook-cost choices, 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 district found.

Additionally, the district has submitted three new requests for fiscal year 2023 funding to Peters, Rep. Juan Vargas and Rep. Sarah Jacobs, both D- San Diego. The requests range from $1.2 million to $1.5 million and all have been advanced to the House Appropriations Committee.

–City News Service