Policy & Advocacy

Open Textbook Pilot Grant Program

Open Education

Grant Program for U.S. Colleges and Universities to Expand the Use of Open Textbooks

The Open Textbook Pilot is a U.S. federal grant program that supports projects at institutions of higher education that create or expand the use of open textbooks to achieve savings for students. First funded by Congress in the bipartisan fiscal year 2018 government spending bill then renewed annually, a total of $35 million has been appropriated for open textbook programs that benefit students across the country.

Victory! On March 11, 2022 Congress passed its FY22 funding package that included $11 million for the Open Textbook Pilot Program, a $4 million increase over FY21SPARC is grateful to Senators Durbin, King, Sinema, and Smith and Congressman Joe Neguse for their continued leadership.

Act Now: Fiscal Year 2023 Renewal

SPARC and our allies are calling on Congress to continue funding the Open Textbook Pilot with a $25 million appropriation in the Fiscal Year 2023 federal budget. Especially at a time when campuses are seeking to expand their digital programs, there is a need to develop high quality, flexible materials that students can access no matter where they are. Open textbooks provide the perfect solution, while saving students millions in the process.

Write To Congress (Click to Expand)

Look up contact details for your Senators and Representative, then customize the text below.

Subject: Renew Open Textbook Pilot in FY23

Dear _____,

I am a _____ working at a higher education institution in ____. I am writing to urge you to support $25 million in renewal funding for the Open Textbook Pilot in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2023. The Open Textbook Pilot provides grants to colleges and universities to expand the use of open textbooks to generate savings for students and improve learning outcomes. The program has already funded grants to create flexible, free, digital materials that are having a tangible impact for students during COVID-19, and funding should be dramatically increased to accelerate progress.

I have seen first hand why open textbooks are important. At the institution where I work, students face many financial pressures that impact their ability to succeed in college, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Every semester I see students struggling to access their required textbooks, which can cost $200 or more each, and the equity gap has only increased as students moved off campus. Open textbooks help solve this problem because they are freely available to download, edit, and share to better serve all learners.

At my institution, we are doing what we can to expand the use of open textbooks, and have seen the positive impacts there are for students — not just for reducing costs, but also for making courses more engaging. However, we need more support and capacity in order to accelerate the use of open textbooks to reach more students.

That is why I urge you to support funding for the Open Textbook Pilot with $25 million. Thank you for considering my request.

Sincerely,
_____

Tweet to Congress (Click to Expand)

Look up the Twitter accounts for your Senators and Representatives then customize the tweets below. Make sure to use #OpenTextbookPilot & #OpenTextbooksFY23.

Hey [mention your senators/rep]! Students need your help to make college more affordable. Expand the #OpenTextbookPilot to $25M to help all students get access to high quality course materials. #OpenTextbooksFY23 

Textbook costs are out of control, and publisher paywalls make access harder. We need [mention your senators/rep] to renew the #OpenTextbookPilot at $25M to help students afford to learn—no mater where they are! #OpenTextbooksFY23 

Students can’t learn from textbooks they can’t afford or access. [mention your senators/rep], please renew the #OpenTextbookPilot at $25M to expand free resources available to all students! #OpenTextbooksFY23

Funded Projects

Since 2018, the Department of Education has awarded 16 Open Textbook Pilot grants. Together, grantees project a total estimated $200 million in student savings for students, a more than threefold return on investment of the $35 million in appropriated funds.

Background

The Open Textbook Pilot was established through the two-year bipartisan budget deal for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, as part of a $2 billion in annual funds designated for college completion and affordability. When this deal was announced in early 2018, SPARC and U.S. PIRG snapped into action with a month-long campaign to secure some of this funding for open textbooks. Building on a decade of advocacy work for open education on Capitol Hill, we succeeded in securing a $5 million appropriation for the Open Textbook Pilot in the FY18 omnibus appropriation bill, then succeeded in renewing and expanding the funding annually. We continue to advocate for permanent authorizing language through the Affordable College Textbook Act.

The Open Textbook Pilot is implemented by the U.S. Department of Education through the Fund for the Improvement for Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) program. The Department awarded the first round of funding in October 2018, providing a sole grant of approximately $5 million to the large open textbook project LibreTexts with a broad national consortium (check out SPARC’s profile of LibreTexts here). In February 2019, the Department awarded the second round of funding to Chippewa Valley Technical College and Arizona State University, providing approximately $2.5 million each for proposals submitted during the first round. The third round of awards will be chosen by December 31, 2020.

SPARC and U.S. PIRG have jointly advocated for renewed funding and strengthening of this program, including holding Open Education Week on Capitol Hill in 2019. Our continued advocacy has renewed annual funding and improvements in the length of the application period.

Documents

SPARC Advocacy

Government Correspondence

Policy Language

Congress included funding for the Open Textbook Pilot in each of the respective funding bills for the Department of Education. As is often the case in the appropriations process, the language describing the specifics of the appropriations appeared in reports that accompany the legislation, not in bill language itself. While the norm is that report language is treated as an extension of the bill, exceptions may apply to some of the specific instructions (such as in FY19 and FY21 when the Department funded high scoring applications from previous competitions rather than running new competitions as directed).

FY22 Language (Page 133 of the Explanatory Statement to accompany H.R. 2471)

Open Textbook Pilot.-The agreement includes $11,000,000 to continue the Open Textbook Pilot. This includes funding to fully fund all continuation grants and support a new grant competition in fiscal year 2022. The Department is directed to issue a notice inviting applications and allow for a 60-day application period. This funding should support a significant number of grant awards with the same terms and conditions as specified for this activity in the fiscal year 2021 notice and House Report 11 7-96.

 

FY21 Language (Page 119 of the Explanatory Statement to accompany H.R. 133)

Open Textbook Pilot.-The agreement includes $7,000,000 to continue the Open Textbook Pilot and support a new grant competition in fiscal year 2021. The Department is directed to issue a notice inviting applications and allow for a 60- day application period. This funding should support a significant number of grant awards with the same terms and conditions as specified for this activity in the fiscal year 2020 notice and House Report 116-450.

 

FY20 Language (Page 144 of the Explanatory Statement to accompany H.R. 1865)Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education

The agreement includes $24,500,000 for FIPSE, to remain available through December 31, 2020, for the following activities.

[…]

Open Textbook Pilot.-The agreement includes $7,000,000 to continue the Open Textbook Pilot and fund a new grant competition in fiscal year 2020. The Department shall issue a notice inviting applications consistent with notice and comment procedures and allow for a 60-day application period. This funding should support a significant number of grant awards to IHEs as defined by 20 U.S.C. 1001, a group of IHEs, or State higher education agencies that lead the activities of (and serve as fiscal agent for) a consortium. Funding should be used to create new open textbooks and expand the use of open textbooks in courses that are part of a degree granting program, and particularly those with high enrollments. Allowable uses of funds should include professional development for faculty and staff, including relating to the search for and review of open textbooks; the creation or adaptation of open textbooks; development or improvement of tools and informational resources that support the use of open textbooks, including accessible instructional materials for students with disabilities; and research evaluating the efficacy of the use of open textbooks for achieving savings for students and the impact on instruction and student learning outcomes. The Secretary shall require that any open textbooks created with these funds shall be released to the public under a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, and irrevocable license to exercise any of the rights under copyright conditioned only on the requirement that attribution be given as directed by the copyright owner. Further, any tools, technologies, or other resources that are created, developed, or improved wholly or in part with these funds for use with any open textbook must be similarly licensed. Any eligible entity receiving a grant through the Open Textbooks Pilot, upon completion of the supported project, shall report to the Secretary regarding the effectiveness of the project in expanding the use of open textbooks and in achieving savings for students; the impact of the project on expanding the use of open textbooks at IHEs outside of the institution receiving the grant; open textbooks created or adapted under the grant, including instructions on where the public can access each open textbook; the impact of the project on instruction and student learning outcomes; and all project costs, including the value of any volunteer labor and institutional capital used for the project. The Secretary shall make such reports publicly available.

 

FY19 Language Part I (Senate Report 115-289)The Committee recommendation includes $5,000,000 for the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education. The recommendation includes the full amount the Open Textbook Pilot first funded in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, and for the purposes described in the accompanying explanatory statement. This funding supports grants to one or a group of institutions of higher education for creating new open textbooks for use by students in courses, especially those with high enrollments, that are part of a degree granting program and expanding the use of open textbooks in such courses. Funds may be used for professional development for faculty and staff at institutions of higher education; creation or adaptation of open textbooks; development or improvement of tools and informational resources that support the use of open textbooks, including accessible instructional materials for students with disabilities; research evaluating the efficacy of the use of open textbooks for achieving savings for students and the impact on instruction and student learning outcomes; and partnerships with other entities to carry out any of these activities. In addition, the Committee directs the Department to require any institution of higher education receiving a grant through the Open Textbook Pilot to report to the Secretary regarding the effectiveness of the project in expanding the use of open textbooks and in achieving savings for students; the impact of the project on expanding the use of open textbooks at institutions of higher education outside of the institution receiving the grant; open textbooks created or adapted under the grant, including instructions on where the public can access each open textbook; the impact of the project on instruction and student learning outcomes; and all project costs, including the value of any volunteer labor and institutional capital used for the project. Such reports should be made publicly available.

FY19 Language Part II (House Report 115-952)

Open Textbooks Pilot.-The conferees recommend that the Secretary award the funds provided in this Act through a new competition and make not less than 20 new grants with individual grants of between $100,000 and $1,000,000. The conferees recommend that the application deadline for the notice inviting grant applications for fiscal year 2019 be not less than 60 days from the date the notice is published. Further, any tools, technologies, or other resources that are created, developed, or improved wholly or in part with Pilot funds for use with an open textbook must be licensed under a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, and irrevocable license to the public to exercise any of the rights under copyright conditioned only on the requirement that attribution be given as directed by the copyright owner.

 

FY18 Language (Explanatory Statement to accompany H.R. 1625)Open Textbooks Pilot.-The agreement includes $5,000,000 for a pilot, competitive grant program to support projects at institutions of higher education that create new open textbooks or expand their use in order to achieve savings for students while maintaining or improving instruction and student learning outcomes. The Secretary shall require that any open textbook created with program funds be licensed under a nonexclusive, irrevocable license to the public to exercise any of the rights under copyright conditioned only on the requirement that attribution be given as directed by the copyright owner. Further, the Secretary should give special consideration to projects at institutions of higher education that demonstrate the greatest potential to achieve the highest level of savings for students through sustainable, expanded use of open textbooks in postsecondary courses offered by the eligible entity and expand the use of open textbooks at institutions of higher education outside of the eligible entity.

FAQ

When will the next call for proposals be?

The call for proposals will be published in the Federal Register at least 60 days before the end of Fiscal Year 2022 on September 30, 2022.

Will the program be renewed in 2023?

Congress will soon begin working on its fiscal year 2023 funding bill. Lawmakers needs to hear from advocates like you that the program is important in order to ensure continued funding. See above for actions you can take today!

 

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