Heavy textbook cost has university weighing new options

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Staff Writer


The burden of textbook costs shouldered by students is a sticking point as each semester begins. It can dampen the studious excitement when a student finds out that he or she has a required text that could break the bank, so to speak.

Craig Finlay, scholarly communication librarian for the Franklin D. Schurz Library is working to do something to ease that burden with open educational resources (OERs).

“The cost of textbooks are increasing, or have, over the past 10 years, increased four times faster than the consumer price index, which is the average increase in price of everything,” Finlay said. “At the same time, tuition has increased 40% for students at public schools of the IU South Bend-type.”

Finlay recognized that students were under a greater financial burden than they had ever been before, including the high cost of textbooks and materials for courses. Citing a Student Public Interest Research Group national survey, he found that 65% of students reported not buying books because of the cost. Almost half of students reported not taking a class because of the cost of textbooks.

“This is hurting student success,” he said.

And that hit to student success also hurts enrollment.

“A student isn’t going to be successful if they don’t’ have the book. So it’s hurting enrollment, and we’re hurting student success, and hurting student success hurts retention rates,” Finlay said.

A potential solution he brought before Academic Affairs in a presentation included the broader use of OERs in classrooms, and Academic Affairs agreed with him.

Over the summer, Finlay will instruct the Summer 2018 Open Educational Resource Course Redesign Institute for IU South Bend faculty and instructors.

The four-week course will focus on finding educational materials that are both high quality and reviewed, highlighting those available through IU South Bend or IU-subscriptions.

“We will also learn about copyright considerations and, finally, creating new, homegrown OERs here at IUSB. Faculty and instructors taking the redesign institute will identify and integrate alternative materials into existing or future courses,” states the syllabus for the course.

Common sources for OERs are sites like OpenStax, OpenStax CNX, Open Textbook, and the IU respository IUScholarWorks.

There are benefits aside from cost that stand out for OERs. The Creative Commons—Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license they reside under makes it beneficial to their creators, as they don’t have to start from scratch for their material as long as materials are attributed correctly. They can also be updated in a timely manner as information and research grows in the field because the material will “live” online, thus removing the financial burden of having to upgrade to a newer edition of a textbook for small informational updates.

Finlay said IUSB’s retention rate is “slowly creeping upward,” due to a focus on that outcome from Academic Affairs, Chancellor Allison, and Vice Chancellor Jann Joseph.

“That’s the whole purpose of the Vision 2020 grants—trying to come up with out-of-the-box ways to come up with student success, and so that’s what I believe the open educational resources can help do,” Finlay said.

Finlay hopes to also help IUSB faculty produce OERs of their own.

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