Provost Directs Additional Funding To Curb Textbook Costs
The affordability of attending college, especially when it comes to paying for high-priced textbooks, is squarely in the sights of Texas A&M University Provost Dr. Alan Sams. In one of his first acts as provost, Sams directed $500,000 in grant funding to support Open Educational Resources (OER) and underwrite the costs of developing free books, notes and other educational resources or revising courses to fit existing, openly available materials. The program is expected to reduce or eliminate textbook costs in 19 courses—saving Aggie students more than $1 million in just the first year.
“Open” textbooks are openly-licensed, digital textbooks that can be read, downloaded and printed online at no or low cost, for anyone to use and share freely.
Past university OER development grants for faculty and library staff have saved Aggies more than $1.5 million in textbook costs, and the latest grants aim to save students another $1 million each year.
Course professors in biology, business, computer science and computer engineering, ecology and conservation biology, history, mathematics, nursing and statistics have been working since the summer to develop free resources for students. Organic chemistry faculty are also working on OER books and notes as part of course redesign efforts.
Undergraduate and graduate students in College Station, Galveston and McAllen will see some relief from textbook costs from the latest round of grant funding, provost office officials say.
A United Effort
Sams and Dr. Timothy P. Scott, vice provost for student success, joined the Student Government Association (SGA), University Libraries and Texas A&M faculty to lower or eliminate barriers to student success, such as the high cost of textbooks, as a fundamental goal of the Texas A&M Student Success Initiative.
“Providing free textbooks impacts every Aggie, as it tangibly increases the affordability of an education at Texas A&M,” said Kathleen Parks ’26, SGA vice president for academic affairs. Parks is pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in society, ethics and law.
In concert with the SGA, University Librarian Julie Mosbo Ballestro is collaborating with the Office of the Provost on cost-saving strategies by helping plan for future initiatives to develop OER textbooks. Mosbo Ballestro is collaborating with publishers and vendors to facilitate access to and legal use of existing books and materials for faculty and students. The next round of grants to assist faculty in developing OER resources will be available in January 2024.
Officials say the savings help thousands of students with affordable textbook options, offering welcome relief for all students and particularly those from lower-income families and underserved populations.
The OER concept allows faculty to continuously update texts and illustrations to refine classroom resources quickly, rather than waiting years for new editions of textbooks to be published.
“Investments in open textbooks remove barriers for students, make college more affordable and improve student success with free, high-quality, faculty-developed resources,” Sams said. “There is no one better at developing OERs than our stellar faculty, and our students will see immediate benefits in lower textbook costs which will allow students to focus on their learning and graduation.”