Students, professors laud $30 textbooks

Open-license textbooks will save students an estimated $100 per course.

Freely available open course material could save college students in Washington state $1.2 million this year: The Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges introduced one of the country’s largest open textbook programs Oct. 31, bringing low-cost class material to 81 college courses with the highest enrollments in the state.

More than 400,000 students at Washington’s 34 community and technical college campuses now will have syllabi, activities, readings, assessments, and textbooks available for $30 per course under a web-based open license.

Funded by Washington state and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Open Course Library (OCL) is expected to save more than $100 for every student in a participating course, and more than $1.2 million for all students in departments that use the material, according to projections from the Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), a national organization that advocates for open college material.

Washington state’s OCL could save college students $42 million annually if the model is adopted statewide.

“It’s not often that government gets this right,” said state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, of Washington State’s 36th District, a longtime supporter of the state’s OCL, who added that lower book costs would help college students as state funding dwindles. “This is a significant state investment in this era of massive budget cuts.”

Carlyle said state lawmakers hadn’t taken a stance against big textbook publishers, but rather offered some financial relief for cash-strapped students. He said he would welcome large publishing companies to compete in the burgeoning open-license textbook market.