During her days as a community college chancellor, Kanter knew of student groups that pooled their money to buy textbooks, ripped the books into pieces, and made copies of those sections for their classmates.

“It broke my heart to see that,” Kanter said.

Kanter joined a panel of campus officials and activists who have pushed for more government and institutional involvement in promoting OER, which has yet to have a major impact in the rising costs of textbooks, although open options have blossomed in recent years.

Nicole Allen, campaign director for the Student Public Interest Research Groups’ “Make Textbooks Affordable” program, told the group of OER advocates that the price of textbooks has risen at nearly four times the rate of inflation in recent decades, and that the costs are detrimental to students’ educational experience.

Six in 10 students at the University of California, Riverside said in November that they forgo purchasing recommended class supplies—including textbooks—because they’re strapped for cash.

And while 60 percent of respondents to the UC Riverside survey said they “skipped buying [schools supplies] entirely,” two-thirds of students said they postponed buying textbooks and other supplies, leaving them without necessary class material in the first weeks of a course.

Eight in 10 students said they spent less money on food to cope with book costs, and 83 percent cut back on going out with friends.

Sally Johnstone, vice president of academic advancement at the online Western Governors University, said during an OER panel discussion at the Feb. 7 event that students’ appetite for free educational material was plain to see.

In a review of illegal downloads made by students using the school’s network when she worked at a traditional university in Minnesota, Johnstone said the Rosetta Stone language program was the most frequently acquired.

“They knew they needed to master that material,” she said.

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