By Emmanuel Freeman
The American Association of Colleges and Universities has named Tennessee State University to a panel charged with finding alternative ways to make instructional materials more accessible. The goal is to help ease students’ financial burden with the high cost of textbooks.
Reports by The Education Data Initiative show that the average four-year college student paid an estimated $1,226 for textbooks and supplies in academic year 2020-2021. Additionally, the price of textbooks increases by an average of 12 percent with each new edition published, the reports show.
“The rising cost of textbooks is a burden for students. This affects their ability to succeed and even complete their classes,” said Dr. Robbie Melton, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. She cited a 2021 TSU pilot where 28 instructors saved more than $81,000 while using OER versus commercial textbooks.
“Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources in the public domain or released under an intellectual property license that permits the unrestricted use and re-purposing by others,” Melton said. “It includes complete courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”
To address the high cost of textbooks, the AAC&U selected TSU and 72 other institutions nationwide to participate in its 2022–23 Institute on Open Educational Resources (OER). This yearlong institute supports educators in launching, expanding, or hastening campus adoption of accessible and affordable instructional materials.
“This is great news that my school is part of this effort to help ease this extra burden on students,” said Destiny Pennington, a senior mass communications major from Detroit. “As we matriculate through school and book bundling is no longer an option, we must buy books out of our own pockets, and that’s hard. So, I appreciate TSU for trying to do something.”
Aliyah Holmes, vice president of the Student Government Association, also applauds the effort to identify free or less expensive resources to help students.
“Sometimes students feel the university is not listening to their problems,” said Holmes, a junior political science major from Houston. “Knowing that TSU is listening to the issue of textbooks as being a problem with the high cost, is very amazing and very appreciative.”
As part of its role, TSU will serve as the lead HBCU in the curation of the HBCU OER Cultural Collection in partnership with MERLOT.org, www.MERLOT.org (higher education teaching and learning materials), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Open CourseWare, www.ocw.mit.edu. The effort is supported by a grant from The William and Flora Hewett Foundation.