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“Our mission? Ensure that every student has access to the high quality learning materials they need — at little-to-no cost.”

– Kaitlyn Vitez – PIRG Higher Education Program Director

According to the College Board, the average undergraduate student should budget between $1,200 and $1,300 for textbooks and supplies each year. That’s as much as 40% of tuition at a two-year community college and 13% at a four-year public institution.

For many students and families already struggling to afford a college degree, that is simply too much – meaning more debt, working longer hours, or making choices that undermine academic success.

For more than a decade, the Student PIRGS have led the way in exposing publisher’s practices that rip off students, championing cost-saving textbook options like used books and rental programs, and advocating for open textbooks as a long-term solution.

We can save students a ton of money, and put the heat on publishers to make textbooks affordable.

In the Legislature

  • In 2008, Congress passes the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which banned some of publisher’s worst practices to rip students off.
  • In 2011 and 2012, respectively, Washington and California enact laws to create statewide open textbook and open educational resource programs.
  • In 2013, Senators Durbin and Franken, with Congressmen Miller and Hinojosa, introduce companion bills to create a federal open textbook grant program.
  • In 2018, Congress includes $5 million in the federal budget for online education resources.

On Campus

We need to continue to generate interest in increased federal funding of open textbook projects, while demonstrating student need and faculty support for new or more robust funding of open textbook programs on individual campuses. We’re also running a massive educational campaign to convince faculty to transition to open textbooks, and to put them on alert for shady publisher practices and products.

In 2015 we launched the campaign for Open Textbooks at UConn Storrs in collaboration with the Undergraduate Student Government. Students held events, gathered petitions and met with campus leaders to advocate for more funding for OER. This campaign expanded beyond the campus community as we brought together student leaders, administration, faculty, librarians and State Representative Gregg Haddad and Senator Mae Flexer to form a statewide task force. The strong advocacy led to the State Legislature passing Special Act No. 15-18, An Act Concerning the Use of Digital Open-Source Textbooks in Higher Education (House Bill 6117). In addition, the University Senate passed a resolution put forth by the Senate Student Welfare Committee in support of the Open Textbook Initiative.

The OER initiative on campus has impacted several thousand students through the adoption of open textbooks and course redesigns to increase affordability.Several faculty have redesigned their courses to make the materials either no cost or very low cost. In September of 2016, the Provost added $100,000 in award money for faculty who teach large classes to adopt, adapt, or create open textbooks and the UConn Co-op, former independent bookstore at the university, gifted the UConn Library’s OER Initiative with $300,000 for future development of open on campus. UConn has awarded grants to about 15 faculty for adoptions, adaptations, and creation of new textbooks which will be shared with the world when they are completed. UConnPIRG students travel to conferences to highlight the collaboration and success their campus has had in expanding OER. Locally, the chapter at UConn continues to hold panels to educate faculty on OER and how they can switch over their classes. In 2017 we surveyed and compiled a report to show the continuing impacts of high textbook costs on the student population. Read the report here.

Take Action:

Faculty Member? Sign the Open Textbook Statement of Support.

Learn More:

Report: Open 101: An Action Plan for Affordable Textbooks

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