As more colleges use open educational resources, textbook costs shrink

More than 2 million students across the U.S. are using free textbooks available through OpenStax, igniting competition—and reducing costs—in the textbook market, Diverse Issues in Education reports. OpenStax, a Rice University-based nonprofit that publishes open educational resources (OER), credited the rapid adoption of OpenStax OER across 5,160 colleges and universities with saving students approximately $177 million in textbook costs this year.

Textbook costs fall amid competition from OER

In announcing those figures, part of a report by Babson Survey Research, OpenStax leaders said the competition from organizations like OpenStax have spurred textbook publishers to lower their prices. According to a May report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, average textbook costs have begun to fall for the first time in 50 years.

“This is exactly what we hoped to see,” said Daniel Williamson, managing director at OpenStax. “We’re thrilled about this shift because when open materials drive the price of all textbooks lower, it means our books haven’t just impacted the students who use them—they’re indirectly saving money for every student in the market.” Nearly half of all U.S. colleges and universities are using the nonprofit’s free textbooks.

College textbook costs have emerged as a significant financial obstacle for college students, especially those from low-income backgrounds. “Overall, we know that students are very concerned about college affordability, and that extends beyond tuition and fees and so-called direct services to include hurdles and burdens, like paying for very expensive textbooks,” Kim Cook, executive director of the National College Access Network, told Diverse Issues in Higher Education. “So, I imagine a service [like OpenStax] that helps students meet that cost would be much appreciated and help students with affordability.”

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