By Max Kronstadt, Vice President of Outreach
In American colleges, including Colorado College, textbooks have become increasingly unaffordable. In just the past 10 years, textbook prices have outpaced inflation by a factor of three, representing an ever-growing share of the cost for higher education.
Paying for college is already stressful, and textbooks are a hidden fee that makes it even more difficult, especially for low-income students. Students are often forced to take on extra debt or work extra hours in order to afford to pay for textbooks. When those aren’t options, many students will forego buying them at all and hinder their ability to succeed in a given class. Given CC’s commitment to making education accessible to all, this is a pesky problem.
Moreover, the escalation in textbook prices has little to do with increased quality but rather comes from corporate consolidation in the textbook industry, and from new strategies these massive companies have integrated to wring more profit from their consumers. Fortunately, we don’t have to be beholden to these behemoth corporations. Open Educational Resources, abbreviated OER, present a promising solution to this textbook racket.
The OER are “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium — digital or otherwise — that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions,” as defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
By replacing expensive textbooks with high-quality, no-cost, open-source textbooks, faculty can save students thousands of dollars, reduce debt-induced stress, and enhance the educational experience overall. High quality OER exist in a variety of different disciplines and more are constantly being created.
CCSGA is working with a statewide coalition of student government leaders from more than a dozen colleges and universities to advocate for OER on our individual campuses and in the state legislature. Our plan is to mobilize students on each of our respective campuses to push our faculty to use OER and our administration to support them in doing so. Simultaneously, we will build a statewide movement that will pressure our state legislators to increase grant funding for faculty to develop new open resources.
To start, CCSGA needs to hear from students. Check your class Facebook page or the “Today at CC” email for links to a survey and petition. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in getting more involved in this campaign.