SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to broaden access to knowledge, today applauded the reintroduction of the Affordable College Textbook Act in the U.S. Congress. The bill aims to make higher education more affordable for students by expanding the use and awareness of open educational resources (OER) — high quality academic materials that can be freely downloaded, edited and shared to better serve all students.
“Textbook costs are an overlooked barrier to getting a college degree,” said Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education for SPARC. “Course materials are meant to help students learn, but too often the expense stands in the way. Open educational resources are the gold standard for expanding equitable access to course materials while supporting greater flexibility for faculty.”
The bill was introduced into both chambers of Congress today by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Angus King (I-ME), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Representative Joe Neguse (D-CO). First unveiled in 2013, the bill has been reintroduced in the past four Congresses.
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Specifically, the Affordable College Textbook Act:
- Authorizes a grant program, similar to the Open Textbooks Pilot, to support projects at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for projects that will achieve the highest savings for students;
- Ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using grant funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public, including individuals with disabilities;
- Requires entities who receive funds to complete a report on the effectiveness of the program in achieving savings for students;
- Improves and updates existing requirements for publishers and institutions that provide information on textbook costs for required materials to students on course schedules; and
- Requires the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress with an update on the price trends of college textbooks and implementation of the disclosure requirements.
The Affordable College Textbook Act is supported by U.S. PIRG, Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition, National Association of College Stores, Association of Big Ten Students, Young Invincibles, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Service Employees International Union, American Association of Community Colleges, Association of Community College Trustees, UNCF, Creative Commons, Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College & Research Libraries, and CAST.
From a US PIRG Statement:
Textbook costs have increased so dramatically because a handful of publishers control the marketplace, using tactics such as access codes, which hide homework behind a paywall, and frequent new editions to keep prices high. As a result, many colleges recommend that students budget well over one-thousand dollars a year for books and other class materials, which hits students at community colleges and low-income students particularly hard. Furthermore, according to a study by the Student PIRGs, $3 billion in financial aid goes to pay for textbooks every year.
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