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'Textbook Heroes' help students save money

Monday, March 6, 2017

In a 2016 survey by Florida Virtual Campus, 66.5 percent of Florida college students reported not purchasing the required textbook for a class due to cost. They also said the price of required textbooks had caused them to take fewer courses (47.6 percent), not register for a specific course (45.5 percent), earn a poor grade (37.6 percent), and fail a course (19.8 percent).

The high cost of textbooks can be a barrier to student success. And while University of Arizona BookStores does everything it can to keep textbook prices down, publishers have increased the cost of textbooks more than 1,000 percent (three times the rate of inflation) since 1977.

What does that mean for an average student? For 2016-17, the University's financial aid office estimates the annual cost of books/supplies was $800 for undergraduates and $1,200 for graduate students.

An increasing number of educators insist that textbooks don't have to be expensive. In fact, digital textbooks can be free. Open textbooks are high-quality, freely available learning materials that can be downloaded, edited and shared by anyone in the world. Because open textbooks are available online, students have immediate access from the first day of class. Students can keep the books, which is not possible with textbook rentals. Faculty can customize open textbooks to meet the learning objectives of their courses.

An Open Educational Resources Action Committee formed at the UA in 2016, with members representing University Libraries, the Office of Instruction and Assessment, UA BookStores, the Office of Digital Learning, University Information Technology Services, the Disability Resource Center, student government and the faculty. The collaboration is dedicated to helping faculty find, use and create open content for teaching.

"The faculty who have made the effort to incorporate open-access materials into their classes are really textbook heroes to me," said Cheryl Cuillier, open educational resources librarian. "They are innovators and their students are the beneficiaries."

Based on a conservative estimate of $100 per student, savings from using open educational resources exceeded $300,000 during the 2015-16 school year for students at the UA.