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When This Guy Learned That Students Were Dropping Out Over Textbook Costs, He Vowed to Change the System

February 8, 2014
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When This Guy Learned That Students Were Dropping Out Over Textbook Costs, He Vowed to Change the System
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Dr. Gary Michelson thinks there's a better, cheaper path for higher ed books.

Before he became a celebrated inventor and surgeon, Dr. Gary Michelson put himself through medical school by working odd jobs — he drove cabs, washed cars and cleaned animal cages at laboratories. So he knew how hard it can be to get through college, and when he learned some kids who couldn’t afford textbooks were dropping out, he devoted himself to doing something about it.

Through his Los Angeles-based organization 20 Million Minds, Michelson is working to make education more accessible. “When I entered this, I thought I had a problem,” he told The Huffington Post. “And what I realized is, I had one leg of an elephant, and it really wouldn’t matter where you grabbed on, the thing is enormous.” Michelson invented a digital textbook system that would reduce students’ $700-on-average textbook costs to a one-time $60 waterproof reader. He also partnered with Dean Florez, the majority leader of the California State Senate, to create the California Open Source Digital Library. The library holds open source textbooks for the most popular college courses, and, combined with Michelson’s digital reader, could save college students $1,600 a year.

The idea, for Forez, is for students and teachers to cater instruction to their needs without excessive costs. “The premise of all our textbooks is that they are open,” Fores told The Huffington Post. “And open meaning from our perspective that, a faculty member or student could repurpose the information, they could reuse it, they could redirect it, and more importantly they can make it their own.”

MORE: Mindfulness Isn’t Just a Hot Trend. It’s Improving Low-Income Schools.

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