HOUSTON - Daniel Williamson, managing director of Rice University-based nonprofit OpenStax, is available to comment on a bill reintroduced yesterday by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Al Franken, D-Minn., and Angus King, I-Maine, which is "designed to help students manage costs by making high-quality textbooks easily accessible to students, professors and the public for free."
The bill, the Affordable College Textbook Act, would create a competitive grant program to support the creation and expand the use of open college textbooks -- textbooks that are available under an open license, allowing professors, students, researchers and others to freely access the materials.
"A grant program is a phenomenal step toward more policies that improve student access and incentivize the use of open educational resources (OER)," Williamson said. "Nonfiscal policies can also contribute to lowering costs, as senators like Durbin, Franken and King work toward passing legislation."
An example of a valuable nonfiscal policy is one that would increase the visibility of OER enabled courses by requiring education institutions and college bookstores to publish a textbook list with a course schedule that allows students to search for a course based on whether a course, or section of a course, requires or recommends only open educational resources, he said.
"For students like Jimmieka Mills, a mother and Houston Community College student, a $200 college textbook can seem like $1 million," Williamson said. "As our government leaders look for ways to solve the college affordability problem, it’s critical we closely examine the impact of free, quality, openly licensed resources."
Williamson said the open textbook model is proven: 1.5 million students are using OpenStax textbooks this academic year alone and saving $145 million. "A fiscal policy that encourages instructors and institutions to use OER and embrace the freedoms that they afford -- access never expiring, opportunities to customize, the ability to integrate with technology platforms -- could help improve college affordability and provide savings for students across the U.S. well into the billions," he said.