UPDATE: WE WON! Congress passed the bill containing renewal funding for the Open Textbook Pilot for a second year.
Congress has approved legislation that will renew and strengthen the $5 million federal Open Textbook Pilot, first funded in March. The renewal funding brings the total investment to $10 million over two years, along with additional instructions to offer a longer application window, more awards, and stronger open licensing requirements for the second round of grants. The funding is contained in the broad Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act of 2019, which was passed by the House on September 26, 2018.
- SPARC Letter to Subcommittee Leadership (September 5, 2018): SPARC sent a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Labor-H Subcommittee advocating for the Open Textbook Pilot to be included in the final FY19 appropriations bill. SPARC also endorsed the clarifying language proposed by Congressional champions.
- Letter from Congressional Champions to Subcommittee Leadership (September 5, 2018): Senators Durbin, King and Smith and Representatives Polis and Sinema sent a letter to the Labor-H Subcommittee leadership advocating for the Open Textbook Pilot to be included in the final FY19 appropriations bill. The letter also requests clarifying language that would address some of the common challenges by the Department of Education.
- SPARC Letters to House and Senate Subcommittee Leadership (May 10, 2018): SPARC sent letters to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Labor-H Appropriations Subcommittees thanking them for supporting the Open Textbook Pilot in FY18 and requesting continued funding in FY19.
- Senate Dear Colleague Letter (April 13, 2018): 26 Senators signed onto a dear colleague letter supporting a continued appropriation in FY19 for the Open Textbook Pilot. Senators Durbin, King and Smith led the letter. SPARC conducted outreach to secure signatures.
On September 26, the U.S. House voted to pass H.R.6157, a large government funding bill including the Fiscal Year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) budget, which includes a $5 million appropriation for the Open Textbook Pilot first established in the FY 18 omnibus.
The $5 million appropriation originates from the Senate’s version of the LHHS budget bill, which was approved in August. After negotiations with the House, the final version of the budget bill released on September 13 included the funding. SPARC advocated both for the renewal and the updated language.
The program will continue to be implemented by the U.S. Department of Education, which will award the funding before the end of FY 19 on September 30. Congress included additional instructions in the report accompanying the FY19 bill clarifying that the Department should issue a new competition, along with a longer application window, more awards, and stronger open licensing requirements. While these instructions do not carry the force of law, federal agencies are expected to follow them.
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 (Conference Report Page 61)
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 ofthe rights under copyright conditioned only on the requirement that attribution be given as directed by the copyright owner.
FY18 Language (For Reference)
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.
Open Textbook Facts
- Open textbooks and open educational resources (OER) are academic materials that are freely available to download, edit and share to better serve all students. These materials come in all formats, including print and digital, and have an open copyright license that permits free and flexible use.
- Numerous institutions of higher education have launched open textbook pilot programs. An analysis of open textbook pilot programs by the Student PIRGs found that these programs saved students $128 per course on college textbook costs. If every undergraduate took one course that used an open textbook, students would save more than $1.4 billion per year.
- Open textbook grant programs at the state level have a strong track record of achieving savings for students. States including Georgia and North Dakota have funded open textbook grant programs that have ultimately saved students more than ten times the amount invested. As such, a $5 million investment could save students $50 million or more.
- Peer-reviewed research has found that students assigned free, open textbooks do as well or better than their peers in terms of grades, course completion, and other measures of academic success. Open textbooks can reduce costs while also supporting student success.