While UTSA’s admission rates are 88.6%, graduation rates are grim, with only 11% of students graduating within four years and 31% of students graduating within six years, for freshman starting with the 2009 cohort (UTSA Office of Institutional Research, 2015). In 2009, President Romo assigned campus administrators, including the library dean, to the Graduation Rate Improvement Plan (GRIP), a task force with the aim of turning graduation rates around.
With the recent wave of news lauding the impact of open educational resources and success stories of universities resolving to go partially or entirely textbook free, UTSA’s librarians realized the potential to affect change in graduation rates by putting textbooks under the microscope.
Research reveals that students spend an average of $1,200 annually on textbooks, and that textbook prices have risen 82% in the past 10 years (U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGS, 2014). Approximately 65% of students don’t buy textbooks because they can’t afford them, and 94% of students have concerns that not doing so will affect their course grade (U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGS, 2014).
Given these statistics—and the research showing that students with access to textbooks do better in their courses—free textbooks are an easy win in the fight to improve graduation rates at UTSA (Feldstein et. al, 2012) (Wiley et al, 2012). Overall, open educational resources allow for a more engaged classroom by reducing costs and contributing to a decrease in students dropping and failing courses. The parallels between potential impact of open educational resources and UTSA’s emphasis on improving graduation rates are difficult to ignore.
Douglas-Gabriel, Daniel. (2016). College courses without textbooks? These schools are giving it a shot. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/06/15/college-courses-without-textbooks-these-schools-are-giving-it-a-shot/
Feldstein, A., Martin, M., Hudson, A., Warren, K., Hilton, J., & Wiley, D. (2012). Open Textbooks and Increased Student Access and Outcomes. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning.
U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGS. (2014).Fixing the broken textbook market.Retrieved from http://www.uspirg.org/reports/usp/fixing-broken-textbook-market
UTSA Office of the Provost. (2011) UTSA Graduate Rate Improvement Plan. Retrieved
UTSA Office of Institutional Research. (2015). The UTSA Fact Book. Retrieved from http://www.utsa.edu/ir/pub/factbook/2015/NewUndergraduates.pdf
Wiley, D., Hilton, J., Ellington, S. & Hall, T. (2012). A preliminary examination of the cost savings and learning impacts of using open textbooks in middle and high school science classes. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(3).