Rutgers University has become the first of New Jersey’s institutions of higher education to formally take action against the rising cost of textbooks by launching the Open and Affordable Textbook Project (OAT). The initiative includes a grant program administered by Rutgers University Libraries that will give incentives to faculty or department groups that replace a traditional textbook with a free, low-cost or open alternative. This program has the potential to save students across the university as much as $500,000 within its first year.
As a member of the Open Textbook Network, Rutgers joins a select group of institutions across the country – including other members of the Big Ten Academic Alliance – that are encouraging their faculty to use open educational resources. Like their conventional counterparts, these resources are peer-reviewed, but are published under copyright licenses that allow students to read and download them for free or to print them at a significant cost savings.
The issue of textbook affordability reached a national stage last year when Congress passed the Affordable College Textbook Act, finding that “the high cost of college textbooks continues to be a barrier for many students in achieving higher education.” At Rutgers, where 80 percent of students receive financial aid and 86 percent face high costs of living as residents of New Jersey, the burden of paying for textbooks is felt even more strongly. In fact, according to New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG), Rutgers students pay an average of $1,500 for textbooks each year – nearly 15 percent more than the national average of $1,300. These costs force students to make tough decisions: Seven out of ten students report that they skip required textbooks due to cost and nearly 60 percent wait for financial aid to pay for textbooks
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