GRCC students save $3.3 million in textbook costs through OpenStax partnerships

March 4, 2019 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Grand Rapids Community College students saved about $3.3 million in textbook costs this past academic year through a partnership with OpenStax, Rice University's open educational resources program that provides free, high-quality peer-reviewed textbooks. 

Students can easily access the text directly from the OpenStax website, where they have the option to download a full copy, an e-book, or access the necessary information to obtain a traditional bound printed copy at cost.

GRCC is currently fifth among colleges nationally in the number of students who make use of OpenStax. Students saved about $1 million more than in the prior year, according to Rice University. 

GRCC's impressive national ranking reflects an effort among faculty to make college more affordable for students, said Dr. Michael Vargo, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.

"At its very foundation, OER is about social equity, and I'm just so proud of the way our faculty and broader campus community have embraced this initiative," Vargo said. "It maps so clearly onto our mission of providing access to high quality higher education to everyone in our community who seeks it.

"Community colleges serve a disproportionate number of students from economically challenged sectors of our society, and the high cost of course materials can create additional barriers to college access and limit student success." 

Vargo said GRCC is ranked among and above colleges with double its annual student enrollment -- a testament to the degree to which the college has invested in this initiative. 

"While we still have room to grow here, I'm incredibly pleased and proud of how quickly we have grown this effort in just a few short years," he said. "For decades, commercial textbook prices have risen many times the rate of inflation, adding significantly to the costs of higher education for everyone, and pushing access to higher education, essential to social and economic advancement, out of the reach of the most economically vulnerable segments of our society."

Vargo said textbook expenses, which range from $1,000 to $1,300 for full-time students, hit economically challenged and working-class students the hardest. One study notes that for each $1,000 increase in educational costs, the probability of students from these two groups continuing with their college studies dropped by 16 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

OpenStax textbooks are in use at 48 percent of colleges and universities in the nation, and 2.2 million students used at least one of its books in the 2017-18 school year alone, according to Rice University.

“These schools are driving access for all students by supporting the open educational resource movement,” said Daniel Williamson, managing director at OpenStax. “Thanks to their leadership and supportive campus communities, millions of students now have one less obstacle on their educational journey.”

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.

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