Hundreds, maybe thousands, of California community college students take online classes that require them to pay an access fee to a commercial publisher on top of their registration fee for the course.
Students have complained that this practice forces them to pay twice for the same course and violates the state's college fee law because they can't download, print or keep the electronic texts and materials they've paid for. Some say they are not aware of the mandatory fee until after they've signed up for a class.
Now, rather than recommend the fee be halted or refunded, a state task force studying the issue wants to change the law to specifically allow such online fees. The college system's Board of Governors can change Title 5 governing college fees without Legislative approval.
The debate over appropriate fees for online courses comes as more colleges are relying on off-the-shelf, Web-based classes from publishers that create - and own- the curriculum.