Update: Victory! On March 23, 2018 the FY18 omnibus bill was signed into law, including funding for a $5 million open textbook grant program. Read more here.
SPARC is calling on Congress to fund a $10 million open textbook grant program as part of its $2 billion commitment to college affordability and completion programs in Fiscal Year 2018. High textbook costs are a major contributor to the overall cost of college, and open textbooks are a proven solution that can reduce financial barriers and help more students attain their degree.
With FY18 negotiations entering their final stages this week, SPARC and our coalition partners are working hard inside and outside the beltway to make the case for open textbooks. This week, SPARC circulated the letter below signed by more than 60 of our member libraries spanning 30 states to key leaders in Congress. This call was echoed by our coalition partner USPIRG with a letter signed by more than 50 student associations.
The time to support open textbooks is now. State-funded open textbook grant programs in Georgia and North Dakota have shown that each dollar invested in open textbook grants can result in ten times the student savings. By dedicating $10 million of the designated FY18 college affordability and completion funds to an open textbook grant program, Congress could save students $100 million or more.
SPARC’s longer-term advocacy efforts remain focused on Higher Education Act reauthorization and establishing a permanent open textbook grant program through the Affordable College Textbook Act. However, the opportunity to secure one-time funding through a FY18 appropriation could have a significant impact in the short term. Act now!
March 6, 2018
Dear Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leaders Pelosi and Schumer:
As members of SPARC, a coalition of academic and research libraries committed to making open the default in research in education, we write to ask you to appropriate $10 million to support grants to create free, high-quality open textbooks for college students in the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bill. Expensive textbooks are a looming barrier to an affordable college education. With open textbooks, we have an opportunity to save students millions of dollars in college costs while improving teaching and learning outcomes in the classroom.
Despite alternative options like renting or buying used books, the price of college textbooks has risen 88% over the last decade. Many students report having to forgo buying a textbook for a course because it is simply too expensive. Now that so much information is available in digital form, we have the option of providing open textbooks: high-quality, freely available textbooks that can be downloaded, edited and shared to better serve all students. In addition to being freely available to students, these resources carry an open license allowing professors to tailor textbooks to better suit their courses and local contexts. Studies have shown that students do as well or better in open textbooks courses than students in courses using a commercial textbook.
SPARC member libraries are on the front lines of helping students find affordable textbooks and assist faculty as they choose and create appropriate and affordable materials for their courses. Because libraries are tasked with providing the best and most up-to-date information for students and faculty to do their work, libraries understand the fundamental power of open textbooks to help make higher education affordable and attainable.
However, despite open textbooks being the most effective solution to expensive course materials, adoption on campus has been slow. It takes time and resources to develop quality, sustainable open learning materials and to support their broader use in courses. Federal grants supporting the creation and use of open textbooks at colleges and universities would accelerate this transition and have an immediate impact on students’ pocketbooks.
Open textbook grant programs piloted by states and institutions have generated large returns on investments. Numerous examples from Georgia to North Dakota to Washington have saved students more than ten times the amount invested—a rare find in higher education policy. As you consider how to best allocate the additional $2 billion in FY18 for “student-centered programs that aid college completion and affordability,” we ask that you direct $10 million of this funding to support open textbook grants to colleges and universities.
Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.
Abilene Christian University Library (TX)
Contact: Katie Steen, Open Education Policy Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org