Open educational resources can offer relief from high textbook prices

Timbo X. Spartan is your typical MSU student. He goes to Economics 201 and Spanish 202 on Monday and Wednesday, and ISS 215 and Accounting 201 on Tuesday and Thursday.

According to the Student Book Store’s current listings, the required texts for these courses would have our friend Timbo spending $100 on economics, $88 on Spanish, $160 on the ISS course and $187 on accounting. This adds up to $535 in materials for one semester.

Of course, this is all hypothetical, but not unrealistic. Chemical engineering sophomore Megan Richardson has spent more than $400 on materials for classes this semester and isn’t finished shopping yet.

“Last year I spent close to $300 on one chemistry textbook,” Richardson said. “This is on the higher end of what I’ve spent so far, but yeah. It’s kind of ridiculous.”

On top of tuition rates that have risen by more than $200 per credit hour over the past ten years and an East Lansing housing market where the average rental property runs about $1,400 a month, textbook prices leave some students without much money for the important stuff, like tickets to the football game or a keg of Keystone Light for after the football game.

Open educational resources, or OERs, are a potential solution to this problem. OERs eliminate or reduce the need for $300 textbooks by replacing them with open-sourced, often-free resources. Jeff Grabill, associate provost for teaching, learning and technology at MSU, said that open-source textbooks, one sector of OERs, can be both cheaper and more informational than traditional books.

Read More