Tuesday, September 15, 2020 News

Applications are Open for the U.S. Open Textbooks Pilot Grant Program

Open Education

Applications for $6 million in available funds are due to the U.S. Department of Education by November 16, 2020

The 2020 application period for the Open Textbook Pilot program is now open. Announced today by the U.S. Department of Education, the grant competition will award approximately $6 million in federal funds to higher education institutions to create or expand the use of open textbooks. This is a prime opportunity to seek funding to support effective and impactful open education work.

The Open Textbooks Pilot program supports projects at U.S. institutions of higher education that create new open textbooks and expand the use of open textbooks in courses that are part of a degree-granting program, particularly those with high enrollments. The program is funded by Congress and administered by the U.S. Department of Education through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). First established in 2018, the pilot has awarded approximately $10 million to three projects over the last two years.

The 2020 Notice Inviting Applications is available in the Federal Register. Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Applications are due November 16, 2020. Applications can be submitted according to the Common Instructions specified in the Notice. Awards will be made by the end of the year.
  • Eligible applicants are institutions of higher education (as defined) and state higher education agencies. Applicants must form a consortium consisting of at least three institutions of higher education and meet additional requirements specified in the Notice.
  • Applicants may request a budget of up to $2 million for a period of up to 36 months. With approximately $6 million available, the Department expects to award 3-12 grants between $500,000 and $2,000,000. There is no matching funds requirement, and unfunded proposals from this round may be considered for future awards.
  • Grants are awarded on a competitive basis according to their score. The evaluation criteria is outlined in the Notice, along with priorities and requirements.

Also published today is the Final Priorities, Requirements, and Definitions for the program, which contains the Department of Education’s response to the public comment period held in March and April. Overall, the changes reflected in the final notice are limited, but there are several positive points, including the important $2 million and 36 month limit on grants, which will ensure that the funding supports multiple projects. The Department also made minor adjustments to the program’s priorities, including to remove the exclusive preference for “personalized learning” as a technology-based strategy for student success, to add requirements regarding interoperability and accessibility of materials, and to encourage participation by community colleges and Minority-Serving Institutions. All open textbooks and other materials created must be openly licensed and disseminated to the public.

This is the second competition the Department has run for the Open Textbooks Pilot, the last being in 2018. We owe gratitude to bipartisan allies in Congress for work over the last two years to not only renew funding, but also ensure a 60-day application period, strong open licensing requirements, and opportunity to submit public comments. SPARC, U.S. PIRG and other allies are actively working to ensure that funding for the program is renewed in the next federal budget, so in addition to taking advantage of this grant opportunity, please consider contacting your elected officials to show support.

SPARC will continue to post additional resources on our policy page as more information comes available from the Department of Education. We look forward to seeing the positive impact that work funded by this program will continue to have for students!

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