PSU is making college more affordable for students by reducing the cost of textbooks and course materials. A comprehensive report prepared by the PSU Task Force outlines 46 strategies that the University can undertake.
The Task Force
The 13 member Task Force involved in the launch of the report, “Textbooks and Course Materials: Reducing Student Costs,” was appointed by Bob Liebman, Presiding Officer of PSU Faculty Senate; Eric Noll, President of Associated Students of PSU (ASPSU); and myself. It includes students, faculty and staff and was led by Marilyn Moody, Dean of the University Library.
I first blogged about the task force charge and membership in July 2014. The Task Force convened in Fall 2014 and continued its work through Winter 2015. Much of what is contained below has been taken directly from the report.
A financial barrier to students
The financial reality for today’s college students is untenable. The College Board estimates a 2013-14 cost of $1207 for textbooks and supplies for the average undergraduate. The cost of acquiring course materials and textbooks add further financial burden to students who are already finishing school with mounds of debt.
In November 2014, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) surveyed approximately 9,000 students from Oregon universities and community colleges regarding their use of textbooks. Approximately 39% of the students who participated were from PSU. Preliminary results indicate that:
- One-third of the students do not acquire their books before the first day of class.
- One-third need their financial aid distribution to pay for their books.
- Almost half of the students reported paying over $250 per term for their books.
Task force recommendations
The Task Force identified five overarching themes. Each theme lists recommendations and potential strategies PSU could use to address each recommendation. Moreover, the report contains three appendices providing contextual information regarding Oregon’s current and previous work on the issue, examples of successful initiatives, and resources.
- Theme 1: Expand on the initial investment of the Task Force
- Theme 2: Pursue collaboration among all stakeholders
- Theme 3: Develop and incentivize use of open education resources (OERs)
- Theme 4: Investigate other cost-reduction initiatives
- Theme 5: Address challenges of copyright and intellectual property
Pilot project demonstrates it can be done
As part of the reTHINK PSU effort, Provost’s Challenge project #111 created an infrastructure for open textbook publishing freely accessible to PSU students. The pilot project, PDX Open, resulted in the publication of five open access textbooks.
The pilot reduced the number of textbooks participating students needed to purchase, saved students between $100 and $140 dollars per course and allowed the Library to lay the foundation to support open access textbook publishing.
The work continues—get on board
With the success of these first five textbooks and the support of generous donors, Robin and Robert Holmes, the PSU Library is pleased to announce a new round of funding for the development of open access textbooks by PSU faculty.
Proposals are due by May 4, 2015 via an online submission form.
As PSU continues its work on textbook affordability we will benefit greatly from your views on the recommendations in the report and how to proceed. Your comments are encouraged.