SPARC Applauds Representatives Hinojosa and Miller for Bill to Make College Textbooks More Affordable

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By: 
Nicole Allen
OER Program Director, SPARC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 20, 2013

Contact:

Nicole Allen
401-484-8104
nicole@sparc.arl.org

Washington, D.C. – The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) today applauded Representatives Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and George Miller (D-CA) for introducing the Affordable College Textbook Act (H.R. 3538). The bill is a companion measure to one introduced last week by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN). The Affordable College Textbook Act will reduce the cost of college textbooks by expanding the use of open educational resources that are free for everyone. 

"Textbook prices have been spiralling out of control for decades, and it is time to break the cycle," said Nicole Allen, Open Educational Resources Program Director for SPARC. "This bill leverages technology to give students access to the high quality materials they need to complete their education at a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks. With support in both chambers of Congress, we are one step closer to making textbooks affordable for all."

The cost of textbooks has emerged as a significant piece of the college affordability and access debate.  Textbook prices increased 82% between 2002 and 2012, and the average student budget for books and supplies has grown to $1,207 per year.  Despite the vast potential for technology and the internet to solve this problem, many digital materials – especially e-textbooks – actively restrict much of this potential and perpetuate high costs.

Open educational resources (OER) provide a new model for publishing academic content that is designed to take full advantage of the digital environment. Open educational resources are textbooks, videos, articles, and other materials that are distributed online under a license granting advance permission for everyone to freely use, adapt and share them.  Using open textbooks in place of traditional textbooks reduces the cost to students by 80-100%.  

The Affordable College Textbook Act will create a competitive grant program for higher education institutions (or groups of institutions) to establish pilot programs that use open educational resources to reduce textbook costs.  Pilot programs can focus on implementing existing open educational resources, creating or improving new open educational resources, or conducting efficacy research – or any combination of these, so long as the end result is student savings.

All educational materials developed or improved through the program will be posted online and licensed as open educational resources so that everyone – including other colleges, students and faculty – can feely use the materials.  The bill specifies a license with equivalent terms to the Creative Commons Attribution License, which is ideal for open educational resources because it enables the broadest possible use.  

"While the potential benefits of this bill to students and professors alike are tremendous, it is important to note that states, institutions and faculty members can start leveraging the power of open educational resources today," said Allen. "From Tidewater Community College's zero textbook cost degree to Washington State's Open Course Library, dozens of initiatives are already leading the way. As we advocate for the bill, we should also advocate for the ideas behind it right away."

For more information, visit SPARC's page on the Affordable College Textbook Act. To follow the conversation on this issue on Twitter use the hashtags #OER and #OERUSA.  

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About SPARC

SPARC®, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, is an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system.  Developed by the Association of Research Libraries, SPARC has become a catalyst for change.  Its pragmatic focus is to stimulate the emergence of new scholarly communication models that expand the dissemination of scholarly research and reduce financial pressures on libraries.

More information can be found at http://sparc.arl.org.