April 04, 2019

Neguse Introduces Ninth Original Bill to Expand Access to Open Textbooks

Washington D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act—the 9th original bill he has introduced since being sworn into office, the most of any freshman member of the 116th Congress. The bill would expand the use of free, open access textbooks on college campuses to provide more affordable alternatives to traditional textbooks and help reduce the cost burden of college education for students in Colorado and across the country. Senator Dick Durbin introduced a companion bill in the Senate today.

“As we look at addressing the high-cost of college, we need to look at everything from textbooks to tuition. Many students are already stretched thin financially to afford the education they need, and then must pay on average over $1,000 per year on textbooks to be well-equipped for their classes, ” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “My bill removes barriers to free, online textbooks, helping students save money and moving us towards more affordable higher education.”

“The mission of community colleges, among many things, is to provide open access to education for our citizens to help them improve their lives through learning. However, skyrocketing costs of textbooks have made it difficult for many students to achieve that goal,” said Niroj Bhattarai, Professor of Economics, Front Range Community College. “Open Education Resources (OER) and open textbooks help us alleviate this burden of cost that many of our students, particularly our first-generation, single-parent, and students from low-income families feel.”

“Expensive textbooks are one more barrier for entry into college for middle class and low-income Colorado families,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, president, Colorado Education Association. “Providing access to free, open textbooks is one way we can ease the weight of financial burden and give more young people from all backgrounds the opportunity to learn, grow and prosper. Families and students need relief from expensive textbooks now to ensure our next generation of young, diverse professionals can fill critical careers, earn a good living and contribute to our economy.”

“One of the most basic higher education costs to students is often overlooked: textbooks,” said Senator Durbin. “In Illinois, we know federal support for open textbooks can be successful. Expanding this program to more states will mean lower costs for students to incur. This bill will help prevent the high cost of textbooks from putting students’ academic success at risk.”

According to College Board, the average student budget for college books and supplies during the 2018-19 academic year was $1,240. According to a survey by U.S. PIRG, 65 percent of students decided not to buy a textbook because of the cost, and 94 percent of those students worried it would negatively affect their grade.

The Affordable College Textbook Act is supported by U.S. PIRG, Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition, National Association of College Stores, Association of Big Ten Students, Young Invincibles, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Service Employees International Union, American Association of Community Colleges, Association of Community College Trustees, UNCF, Creative Commons, Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College & Research Libraries, and CAST.

“The high cost of textbooks causes students to routinely forgo buying books, skip meals, or drop out of classes. No student should have to make choices that hurt their ability to succeed in school,” said U.S. PIRG’s Higher Education Campaign Director Kaitlyn Vitez. “We thank the senators and representatives for their leadership to address the skyrocketing cost of higher education.”

"Open textbooks are a proven strategy to save students millions while expanding access and flexibility," said Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). "This bill will accelerate the use of open educational resources that can be freely downloaded, edited and shared so that higher education can better serve all students."

Specifically, the bill creates a grant program to support pilot programs at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for programs that will achieve the highest savings for students. Additionally, the bill ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using grant program funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public.

An earlier version of the House bill was introduced by former Congressman Jared Polis in the 115th Congress.