April 28, 2022

Neguse Leads Letter Urging Investments in Textbook Affordability Program

Washington, D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse, joined by six members of Congress, led a letter to House Appropriations Committee leadership urging them to include $25 million for a pilot program for open textbooks in fiscal year 2023. The letter supports funding for the continuation of the Department of Education’s Open Textbooks pilot program, which has provided college students across the country with a more affordable alternative to traditional textbooks. 

“Access to open textbooks is a critical component to making higher education more affordable and attainable,” says Congressman Joe Neguse. “Textbook costs can be enormous roadblocks for students, and it is imperative that we clear these obstacles as we fight for equity and quality in education. I hope the Appropriations Committee will provide this program with increased funding in FY23 to expand the program and set students up with the resources they need to succeed.”

The letter was signed by Representatives Neguse (CO-02), Casten (IL-06), DeFazio (OR-04), DeSaulnier (CA-11), Khanna (CA-17), Omar (MN-05), and Sires (NJ-13).

A full version of this letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Chair DeLauro and Ranking Member Cole:

Thank you for your continued support of the Open Textbooks Pilot program at the Department of Education (ED) to support the creation and expansion of the sustainable use of quality open college textbooks. We are thankful for your leadership in securing $11 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, which brings the total federal investment to $35 million over the last five fiscal years—resulting in an estimated $220 million in eventual savings to students. We write today to ask that you continue to build on this multi-year federal investment by providing $25 million to support the Pilot in FY2023. 

Unlike tuition and other costs of college, textbook costs are often felt by students on the front end. The College Board estimates that the average student budget at a four-year public institution of higher education for books and supplies was $1,240 during the 2021-2022 academic year. A single traditional textbook can often cost hundreds of dollars.

Open textbooks are educational resources freely available to the public under an open license and provide quality alternatives to traditional textbooks. Each time a faculty member substitutes a traditional textbook with an open textbook, students save money. Over time, the expanded use of open textbooks has the potential to inject healthy competition into the traditional textbook market—bringing overall prices down. Open textbooks can also improve instruction by providing greater flexibility for faculty members to adapt and customize materials to meet their specific needs.

Open textbooks not only help reduce the cost of college for students, but their use can improve educational outcomes by ensuring students are not forced to forgo required course materials due to cost. A 2020 survey by U.S. PIRG found that 65 percent of students decided not to buy a textbook because of the cost and 90 percent of those students worried it would negatively affect their grade. Low-income and students of color are most often negatively impacted by not being able to afford class materials. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the financial challenges of these students in continuing their college education. That same U.S. PIRG survey found 82 percent of students who reported missing a meal due to the pandemic also reported forgoing buying textbooks because of the cost. The resulting shift to remote learning of the pandemic has also created access issues related to traditional textbooks beyond cost—something free, online materials could solve.

There is growing demand among the higher education community for this program. In the most recent competition, ED received more than 30 applications for projects but was only able to fund an additional four. We believe an increase to $25 million in FY23 is needed to keep up the exciting momentum this program has built toward increasing savings for students over its few short years in existence. Additional funds mean that more projects can be funded and more savings for a greater number of students can be achieved. Previous federal investments in the Open Textbook Pilot show a bipartisan commitment to making college more affordable for students and families. We respectfully urge you to grow this commitment in FY23.

Thank you for your consideration.”

Investment in the Open Textbooks pilot program – including an $11 million investment in the FY 2022 Omnibus – began in Fiscal Year 2018, resulting in an estimated $220 million in eventual savings for students. In March of this year, Representative Neguse re-introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act to authorize a grant program to support the creation and expansion of open textbooks, and reduce the burden of higher education for students in Colorado and across the country.

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