UTSA Libraries Saves Students $3.4 Million in Textbook Costs

OER takes a bite out of textbook costsUTSA Libraries has awarded 24 ;Adopt a Free Textbook Grants to faculty throughout the university, resulting in saving students $842,194 during the fall 2017 semester alone.

The grants, which stipulate that free textbooks or learning materials be used in the course for a minimum of four semesters, will ultimately result in saving students $3.4 million.

“This is the second year the library offered the free textbook grant to faculty,” said DeeAnn Ivie, one of the librarians who oversees the effort to integrate free textbooks and course materials—called Open Educational Resources (OER)—into UTSA’s classrooms.

“We received three times as many applications as last year, so we’re really excited to see free textbooks gaining momentum.”

The Department of Biology received one of the grants to adopt a free textbook for Biosciences I & II, large courses that enroll 2,300 students each academic year. The previous textbook for the course cost $180.

In comparing the courses’ current textbook with its open source equivalent published by OpenStax, professor of biology David Jaffe found the free version to be equivalent, if not more extensive.

“OpenStax Biology compares highly to most of the leading introductory biology textbooks,” said Jaffe. “Our faculty will be putting significant time and effort integrating the new book into their sections of the course, allowing them to build a more engaging, relevant, and top-tier biology learning experience of highest value to our students.”

Faculty recipients of the 2017 grants span every college at UTSA. Grant applications were reviewed with an eye toward highest impact based on textbook cost, course enrollment and the percent of students who typically fail or withdraw from the course.

Examples of courses that will benefit from free textbooks this fall include Principles of Microeconomics, Introduction to Biological AnthropologyElectronic Circuits and Criminal Justice Research Design and Analysis. These four courses alone previously used textbooks ranging in cost from $120-200 each.

Open Educational Resources received some political limelight this spring with the introduction of  Senate Bill 810, which calls for a state grant program and a feasibility study of a statewide OER repository that will be coordinated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The bill was signed by Governor Abbott on June 9.   

“I am passionate about Open Educational Resources and their potential to have a real impact on student retention,” says dean of libraries Dean Hendrix, who testified to the Texas State Legislature on behalf of SB 810.

In addition to requiring that universities track the use of open educational resources, the bill stipulates that students be given the ability to search for courses based on whether they use free textbooks. These efforts are already in progress here at UTSA.  

The Adopt a Free Textbook Grant is generously supported with funding from UTSA Teaching & Learning Services and the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs