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University Joins National Effort to Reduce Textbook Costs for Students

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Cal State Fullerton is one of 11 universities and schools across the nation selected to be a part of the 2017-18 OpenStax Institutional Partnership Program to encourage the use of free, peer-reviewed textbooks and other open educational resources (OER) on campus.

“With more than 40,000 students at Cal State Fullerton, faculty adoption of no-cost OER instructional materials would have an incredible impact on lowering the cost of higher education for students,” said Shelli Wynants, director of online education and training. “Additionally, because OER are openly licensed, faculty can reuse, remix and change materials to ensure up-to-date, customizable content that is delivered in alternative, more engaging ways than traditional textbooks, such as interactive elements and animations.”  

OpenStax, an initiative of Rice University supported by several philanthropic foundations, provides free textbooks that are developed and peer-reviewed by educators as a means to lower the cost of books for college students. Partner institutions were selected based on their willingness to help drive the adoption of OER — freely accessible text, media and other digital assets useful for teaching, learning and research.

Since spring 2015, Cal State Fullerton has been among 13 California State University campuses participating in a CSU Initiative, via OpenStax, to further open educational resources.

The cost of traditional textbooks per student ranges from about $655 to more than $1,200 per year, according to the National Association of College Stores and the College Board.

In a CSUF survey completed by 9,697 students during the 2016 fall semester, just 28 percent reported buying all of their required textbook/instructional materials every semester, noted Wynants, also a lecturer in child and adolescent studies. Of those surveyed, 82 percent said the reason why they did not buy or rent required course materials was because they were too expensive, and 41 percent agreed that not obtaining their required course materials negatively impacted their learning.

Wynants also cited a 2013-14 report by the OER Research Hub in which students identify OER as saving them significant money, improving their satisfaction and having a positive impact on course completion. Furthermore, state Senate Bill 1359 — effective Jan. 1, 2018 — will require all California State Universities to identify specific courses in the class schedule that use course materials that are free of charge to students.

“Our goal as a partner in the program is to provide professional development for faculty on how to find and evaluate quality, no-cost OER alternatives to overpriced textbooks and significantly lower the cost of instructional materials for students,” said Wynants.