Community college tackles textbook prices

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Since the 1970s, the cost of college textbooks has skyrocketed by 1,000%. Textbooks now typically cost between $100-200, with the estimated cost of $120 at a community college (where a student is likely to spend about $1,200 a year on textbooks alone).

North Shore Community College has made a commitment to embrace the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement in higher education to make textbooks more affordable for its students. The OER movement seeks to reduce the cost of student learning resources by making open and adaptable quality content available to educators in whatever form they wish to use. This includes scores of textbooks on a variety of subjects from history to psychology to business to anatomy but also includes videos, audio recordings, lesson plans, and other rich content.

At NSCC, through a Technology Across the Curriculum Grant Program, Library, Instructional Technology and Design staff and faculty have developed and implement the Open Textbook Initiative to work with faculty to help them reduce the cost of their course materials by either replacing purchased materials for open content online as well as the Library’s digital resources and databases, or by finding a more affordable course text (under $50) coupled with other free materials. The Open Textbook Initiative has also created a guide for faculty to help them navigate the vast collections of OER.

To date, this initiative has saved students $35,000 in textbook costs and over 20 faculty are working to replace their textbooks with open and affordable materials. For their efforts, NSCC is emerging as a leader across the Commonwealth’s community college system, and is encouraging others to embrace the movement. College staff have been in demand to share their knowledge through presentations and publications including the UMASS Boston OpenEd all-day conference, Quinsigamond Community College’s Technology Conference, OER Summer Institute, 2015 Innovations Conference and more. To see more about this program go to: http://libguides.northshore.edu/open.

NSCC students are also getting onboard with the initiative. The NSCC Student Government Association held its first book swap this semester, where students swapped 40 books, ultimately saving students approximately $4,500.
In addition, MASSPIRG students just released a new report investigating the real impact of high textbook prices on today’s students. The report, titled “Covering the Cost,” is based on a nationwide survey of nearly 5,000 students, including 1316 from Massachusetts. Alisha Raby Cefalo, NSCC Student Government Senator and book swap organizer noted, “Students are consistently forced to choose between survival and overpriced, required textbooks. We need to work together to cut the overall cost of college for students by getting more funding for alternative options.” The study found that in many instances students are spending a great portion of their financial aid assistance on textbooks. To view the report in its entirety go to: http://masspirgstudents.org/reports/sp/covering-cost.

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