Colorado State U. Student's Textbook Legislation Becomes Law

This story was written by aaron hedge, Rocky Mountain Collegian

It all started in a small bowling alley in Casa Grande, Ariz. over Thanksgiving break last year.

Blake Gibson, the current president of the Associated Students of Colorado, sat with Erin Hertzog, then president of the University of Arizona's student government, and talked about ways to make college cheaper for students.

Gibson, the author of a progressive textbook industry transparency law signed last month by Gov. Bill Ritter, was struck by Hertzog's passion for making textbooks cheaper.

When he returned from his Arizona trip, he found that Katie Gleeson, current president of the Associated Students of CSU, was running on a platform for implementing tax-free textbooks.

Gleeson's effort ultimately failed, but Gibson was undeterred.

When he became the first president of the ASC this year, he immediately began a campaign with Dan Palmer, the director of Academics for ASCSU, to lighten the strain textbooks put on students' budgets -- which makes up nearly a third of the average student's cost of education.

Just less than seven months later, Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill drafted by Gibson that requires textbook publishers to do three things that student organizations across the country say will slow the price of textbooks from skyrocketing at four times the rate of inflation, as it has for 20 years.

But Gibson, a Montana native from a family who considers politics a "four-letter word," said he never expected to be a student activist until he got to Colorado and noticed students dropping out because they couldn't afford college.

As a sophomore biomedical sciences major, his real passion is medicine, but he draws parallels between his desire to treat patients and fixing what he calls a "sick society."

Colorado fell to last place in the nation for higher education funding this year as the state is feeling further effects from a series of constitutional citizen initiatives that restrict state lawmakers from raising taxes enough to continue funding all state programs. And higher education receives the sharpest blows from the economic debacle.

"We have a state in Colorado where not everyone can get an education who wants to," Gibson said. "That's an illness. It needs to be diagnosed. It needs to be cured."

He says the way to fix Colorado's situation is to bring the student interest into the view of voters and looking past partisan politics to find a solution that makes sense -- something he said will be difficult for Colorado's polarized voters.

"Colorado is a state of extremes," he said. "You've got Colorado Springs. You've got Boulder. And Denver is right in between." Gibson said people view him as conservative, but he doesn't see himself as affiliated with either end of the political spectrum.

"A lot of my friends tell you I lean right," he said. "(But) I lean toward what makes sense."

With two years of school left before he graduates from CSU, Gibson looks forward to starting a career as a doctor, but hopes to continue his involvement in politics in some capacity.