expensive textbooks

The cost of college textbooks is soaring. According to the College Board, the average cost of textbooks and materials is about $1,200 per year, and individual books can cost up to $400.

Pikes Peak Community College recently joined a handful of colleges and universities that have adopted “open education resources” that help reduce the cost of books.

The main culprit for high textbook prices, according to research done by CBS News MoneyWatch, is that textbooks increasingly are bundled with access codes that unlock other materials students need for classes, such as videos, homework and quizzes.

The access codes mean that students are required to buy the books at retail prices at campus bookstores, but when the access codes expire at the end of the semester, the textbooks become virtually worthless because students can’t resell them. Unbundled, students could buy the textbooks for less through online marketplaces.

Open education resources don’t require access codes. Over the past academic year, they’ve saved PPCC students about $400,000 in textbook costs.

“Every time I meet with students, they ask why textbooks are so expensive,” PPCC President Lance Bolton said in a news release. “Clearly, this is a significant barrier students face.”

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The Colorado Department of Higher Education recently awarded $550,000 in grants to help Colorado colleges with OER development efforts. PPCC received $40,000 — the largest award of any community college in the state.

Open educational resources are publicly accessible, openly licensed and usually digital educational materials. These materials can be freely used, adapted, offered in print form and shared with little or no restrictions.

“Clearly, this is a significant
barrier students face.”
— Lance bolton

This gives faculty the opportunity to adapt materials specifically tailored to their subject and teaching style while providing students with a more affordable option.

Aside from reducing textbook costs, research has shown that OER benefits students by increasing retention and grades and by providing a higher level of learning that can only be achieved by adapting and contributing to the learning materials themselves.

Marc Nash, PPCC’s OER specialist/coordinator, helped secure the grant money and has been working with PPCC faculty to access and refit these free resources for their courses.

“We’ve tripled the amount of OER courses offered this academic year and will be saving students $2 million in textbook costs,” Nash said.