The US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) [recently] released a new report, investigating those high textbook prices for common courses at schools across the country. Entitled Open 101: an Action Plan for Affordable Textbooks, the report contains recommendations that, if enacted, could save students billions of dollars by ensuring the materials that students buy for their general education classes is free instead.
Key findings from the report include:
Schools that have invested in open educational resources (OER) generated significant savings for their students. OER are digital materials that are accessed for free online, and carry many other benefits for both students and professors. For example, in Massachusetts, Greenfield Community College’s use of OER in introductory courses meant that students there spent an average of $31 per course on materials in the 6 courses in our study, compared to a national average of $153.
When publishers bundle a textbook with an access code, it eliminates most opportunities for students to cut costs with the used book market. For forty five percent of the classes in our sample, the materials were only available at the campus bookstore. This eliminated cheaper used options and meant that students were forced to pay full price for these materials. In psychology, for example, students assigned a bundled access code paid $114 on average. If their professor assigned just a textbook, the average new price was $170 at the bookstore, but students could save sixty-eight percent by shopping used online.
This means that switching course materials in these core courses from access codes and traditional textbooks to OER would save students $1.5 billion dollars a year if adopted nationwide.
Direct to Full Text Report: Open 101
24 pages; PDF.