Tuesday, September 26, 2017 News

Affordable College Textbook Act Reintroduced in Congress

Open Education


Contact: Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education

[email protected]

(202) 750-1637

Affordable College Textbook Act Reintroduced in Congress

Washington, D.C. (September 26, 2017) — SPARC, an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to broaden access to academic knowledge, today applauded the introduction of the Affordable College Textbook Act of 2017, which would reduce the cost of college textbooks by expanding the use of open educational resources. The bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Polis (D-CO) and Sinema (D-AZ) and in the Senate by Senators Durbin (D-IL), Franken (D-MN), and King (I-ME).

Open educational resources (OER) are free, openly-licensed academic materials that everyone can use, adapt and share.

“This bill takes a critical step toward solving the expensive textbook crisis,” said Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education at SPARC. “Too many students are choosing not to buy their course materials because they cannot afford them. As we think about college affordability, we should focus on proven solutions that deliver meaningful, long-term savings for students, and open educational resources are the most effective path forward. We’re grateful to Senators Durbin, Franken, and King and Representatives Polis and Sinema for their leadership on this issue.”

The cost of textbooks has emerged as a significant piece of the college affordability and access debate.  Textbook prices increased 88% between 2006 and 2016, and the average student budget for books and supplies is more than $1,200 per year. Despite the vast potential for technology and the internet to solve this problem, many e-textbooks and other digital materials from traditional publishers actively restrict much of this potential and perpetuate high costs.

Open educational resources are gaining traction as an alternative to costly textbooks. Many campuses across the country are already leveraging OER to increase access to course materials and reduce costs for students. Colleges and universities that partnered with OpenStax to boost the use of OER on campus are expected so save their students $8.2 million. The University of Maryland University College became the first major U.S. institution to replace all textbooks in undergraduate courses with free online resources.

Numerous studies have documented that the use of OER can significantly reduce student costs while maintaining or improving academic success. A multi-institution study published by researchers at Brigham Young University provides the most compelling case yet: students in more than half of the courses using OER did better than their peers in at least one measure of academic success, and the vast majority of courses performed at least as well.

“With open educational resources, we have a solution to expensive textbooks at our fingertips,” said Allen. “This bill would take a meaningful step toward expanding the benefits of OER to students and faculty alike. And in the meantime, there are many ways that institutions and states can leverage the power of open educational resources today.”

About the Bill

The Affordable College and Textbook Act directs the Department of Education to create a competitive grant program for higher education institutions (or groups of higher education institutions) to establish pilot programs that use open educational resources to reduce textbook costs. Pilot programs may focus on using existing OER, creating or improving new OER, or conducting efficacy research – or any combination thereof, so long as the end result is student savings.

Any educational materials developed or improved through the program will be posted online and licensed as open educational resources so that everyone – including other colleges, students and faculty – can freely use these materials. The bill contains a strong definition of an open license that is equivalent to the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits full reuse rights on the condition of author attribution. This license would ensure the public gains the maximum benefit of the materials created through the grant program.

The Affordable College Textbook Act was first introduced in the 113th Congress.  To learn more about the bill click here.


SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, is an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system. Developed by the Association of Research Libraries, SPARC has become a catalyst for change. Its pragmatic focus is to stimulate the emergence of new scholarly communication models that expand the dissemination of scholarly research and reduce financial pressures on libraries. More information can be found at www.sparcopen.org/ and on Twitter @SPARC_NA.



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