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Katy Abel
MA Dept. of Higher Education
617-994-6932
kabel@bhe.mass.edu

For Immediate Release
March 2, 2021

Massachusetts Public Colleges & Universities Report $7M in Textbook Savings For Students

Growing access to "Open Educational Resources" replaces costly textbooks, boosts college affordability

Boston, MA – March 2, 2021 – A consortia of Massachusetts public colleges and universities marked Open Education Week (March 1-5) by reporting to the Department of Higher Education that efforts to replace expensive college textbooks with free or low-cost instructional materials have resulted in more than $7 million in direct savings to students.

The savings achieved since 2014 have been spurred by a multi-year effort led by the Department of Higher Education to train faculty to redesign courses using open-source materials. Following one training session for 225 faculty last May, 58% of attendees revamped their courses to incorporate Open Educational Resources (OER), resulting in $550,000 in direct student savings.

“When we look at the cost of training faculty versus the pocketbook savings for students, we see a 12:1 return on state investment,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “We know that too many students are dropping classes they need to take in order to graduate. At a time of serious economic challenges for students, it’s imperative that we work to expand use of OER. I deeply appreciate the willingness of so many faculty to support students by being flexible in their selection of course materials.”

“Committing to using OER has not only saved my students money but led to increased diversity in the materials I teach,” said Salem State University Professor Roopika Risam. “Without depending on an expensive textbook, I now have the freedom to select course materials that align well with my commitment to equity in the topics I address and the voices that are included.”

“When I first came to MassBay I had never heard of an ‘Open Education Resource,’”  said MassBay STEM graduate Vincent Briselli. “Like many students, I was concerned about financing my education but determined to make the most of my experience. Over the course of my three years at MassBay, I utilized OER in multiple courses, saving more than $1250 in textbook costs, roughly the same amount as two courses at MassBay.”

Across the Commonwealth, work to expand use of OER materials has transformed both the nature of instruction as well as the cost of materials:

The effort to prioritize OER adaptation was due in part to the actions of the Massachusetts Student Advisory Council (SAC), composed of student trustees serving on individual campus boards. A SAC-sponsored resolution approved by the Board of Higher Education in 2018 led the Department of Higher Education to work directly with campus faculty and staff to advance the initiative.

“I’m proud to see that student activism regarding OER is having real impact,” said Jorgo Gushi, Chair of SAC and Community Colleges Segmental Advisor to the Board of Higher Education. “Students are under a lot of stress these days and it’s unacceptable for anyone to have to drop a course because they can’t afford educational materials, or to skip meals so that they can buy books.  Our voices will continue to champion the need for equity and affordable options.”

Many public campuses are hosting Open Education Week events to highlight the benefits of using open-source materials.  On March 3, members of the Student Advisory Council will participate in a virtual forum, “Unleashing the Power of Massachusetts Students to Increase OER Awareness” at 12 p.m. To register, click here.

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