Help with Cost of Books and Other College Materials

Would it be considered extravagant for a young college student to purchase a 55-inch, flat-screen TV? Every year? Perhaps. But many college students are spending at least as much annually on textbooks and course materials. In fact, the College Board recently reported that the average U.S. college student spent about $1,298 on books and supplies during the last academic year. Convinced that that sort of expense is not reasonable, many college officials are embracing a concept known as Open Educational Resources (OER).

“OER saved our students up to $500,000 in textbook and materials costs this fall,” said Dr. Jack Bagwell, vice president for academic affairs at Piedmont Technical College (PTC). “It also accommodates for different learning styles. … We look for the best bang for the buck, but we are also coming to it organically and trying not to force it.”

Without question, the rising cost of textbooks and other materials for college courses creates obstacles for many students. According to a survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, up to 70% of college students have opted not to purchase a textbook because it was too expensive. In addition, 1 in 5 college students at some point has put off taking a class because of the required materials cost associated with that class. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016 reported that consumer prices for college textbooks increased 88% in just 10 years between 2006 and 2016.

Open educational resources are teaching materials, including textbooks, that are available for free. PTC faculty began introducing OER materials in 2017.

Lisa Martin, dean for instructional development and academic support, estimates that many PTC instructors are participating in OER efforts and using special software to develop customized materials for their students.

“With OER, you get to control what you are bringing into the classroom,” she said. “We have become so accustomed to teaching what the publisher has provided us. This gives us some creative license that we haven’t had in the past.”