While tuition and fees generally get the most attention in the popular press in stories about the rapidly rising costs of college, other, ancillary costs (such as room and board and other educational expenses) also play an important role in driving up college costs for families across country who send their children to college.
One of these other, somewhat hidden, costs are textbook prices, which can put a very noticeable dent in the pockets of students and families even after they have had to shell out the big bucks for tuition. Indeed, in the case of low-tuition institutions (particularly community colleges), the cost of textbooks can even be in excess of the tuition and fees students pay.
Over time, students have explored options for reducing their textbook costs: some sell back their books after completely a course, some go to online venues, some even borrow textbooks long-term from the library, others (particularly the less studious) merely forgo textbooks for some classes entirely.
But it sounds like at least some students will be getting another option for lowering textbook costs, an option that lowers costs all the way to zero. A story in Inside Higher Ed, by Mitch Smith, tells of a promising development at Rice University in Texas:
OpenStax will offer free course materials for five common introductory classes. The textbooks are open to classes anywhere and organizers believe the programs could save students $90 million in the next five years if the books capture 10 percent of the national market. OpenStax is funded by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation and the Maxfield Foundation…
In the past, open-source materials have failed to gain traction among some professors; their accuracy could be difficult to confirm because they hadn’t been peer-reviewed, and supplementary materials were often nonexistent or lacking because they weren’t organized for large-scale use.
OpenStax believes it addressed those concerns with its new books, subjecting the texts to peer review and partnering with for-profit companies to offer supplementary materials for a cost.