Open educational resources topic of higher education committee hearings
A big theme of last week for higher education in the Legislature was open educational resources (OER) and textbook costs for students. On Tuesday, Jan. 31, both the House Higher Education and Senate Higher Education committees devoted much time to this topic.
Students pay approximately $1,200 a year on textbooks, with each textbook costing approximately $100 to $200. These high costs are due to bundling of course materials, expensive online access codes, and the professor’s requirement of new or custom edition textbooks. It is difficult to resell materials once purchased, and it limits student’s ability to purchase individual books for cheap.
With the implementation of OER’s students will be able to save money, keep updated with current content, and have extended access to the course material before, during, and after the course.
The main barriers for adopting OERs at the community and technical college-level boil down to knowledge, training, and incentive. It is dependent not only on the professors, but on the department heads for the decision on what course material is to be used. These decision-makers may not choose OERs because of the time it takes to learn about and select specific resources, money, lack of functionality with a course, or integration of OERs into existing courses.
To address these problems, the hope is to train more employees in OERs and incentivize professors to write OERs or free textbooks for their students by offering grant money to pursue these endeavors. This model already exists on some campuses and it has proven to lift a great burden on students who are able to use OERs for their courses.
Keeping textbook costs low is so important for student success. High textbook prices deter students from registering for courses with high textbook costs (often STEM fields), or students will often not purchase a book and attempt to go through the course without the required text.
Brenda and I have been preparing for State Need Grant Advocacy Day, hosted by the Student Aid Alliance. The event, held today, Feb. 7, empowered students to speak to their legislators in favor of fully funding the State Need Grant.
Along with this event, students testified at the Senate Higher Education and House Higher Education committees. I had the privilege to testify on behalf of the students in our community and technical college system who benefit from this grant.
The State Need Grant funds students whose household income is under 70 percent of the median average income. Last year, this fund reached almost 69,000 students. However, about 24,000 more students who were eligible for the State Need Grant did not receive financial support due to the lack of funding.
The message to our legislators: FUND SNG!