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OER (Open Educational Resource)

Guide for faculty who would like to use OER materials

Key Findings 

Individual textbooks now often cost over $200, and sometimes cost as much as $400.
•     Over the past decade, textbook prices increased 88%—that’s three times the rate of inflation.
•     65% of students report that they skipped buying or renting an assigned textbook because of cost.
•     Without access to books, many students struggle to succeed in their classes. Nearly half of all students say that the cost of course materials impacts which classes and how many classes they are able to take.

Key Finding 1 The high cost of textbooks is negatively impacting student access, success, and completion. The findings suggest that the cost of textbooks is negatively impacting student access to required materials (66.6% did not purchase the required textbook) and learning (37.6% earn a poor grade; 19.8% fail a course). Time to graduation and/or access to courses is also impacted by cost. Students reported that they occasionally or frequently take fewer courses (47.6%); do not register for a course (45.5%); drop a course (26.1%), or withdraw from courses (20.7%).

93% of students who use OER do as well or better than those using traditional materials, since they have easy access to the content starting day one of the course

The Link Between OER, Equity, and the California Community Colleges

This is an issue that affects students of color more than other students.


"The CCC Chancellor's Office (CCCCO) has provided a number of key facts about these 2.1 million students, including the following:

  • Over 67% are from diverse ethnic backgrounds
  • Over 62% attend part-time
  • Roughly 50% come from California's lowest-income families
  • Roughly 40% are first-generation
  • Over 40% are over 25 (already working adults)

The Institute for College Access & Success concluded in their Feb. 2018 report, that "affordability challenges contribute to inequities in college enrollment, completion, and student debt burdens, with low-income and minority students less likely to enroll or complete college, and more likely to have borrowed for college." Furthermore, increased attention has been given to students’ basic needs, as food and housing insecurity have been shown to undermine academic success and impact college completion and persistence (Goldrick-Rab, Richardson, Schneider, Hernandez, & Caty, 2018).

Studies Link Textbook Costs to Equity

Looking at several studies will give a better understanding of how textbook costs and equity are linked. 

The CSUCI White Paper

CSU Channel Islands’ openCI initiative recently completed a campus-wide study (Links to an external site.) of over 700 undergraduate students. This is a unique study because it focuses on exploring the impact of textbook costs specifically on historically underserved populations. Statistical analysis revealed textbook prices to be a significant educational barrier for all CSUCI students, with a disproportionately negative effect among racial/ethnic minorities, low-income students, and first-generation college students.

The study concludes that it is our responsibility as staff, faculty, and administrators to "remove any unnecessary financial barriers to academic success, and to ensure that our students’ learning potential is never limited by their purchasing power."

The key finding from the CSUCI White Paper are as follows:

Statistically Significant Results for White and Latinx Students described in link below

Statistically Significant Results for Low-Income Students described in link below

Statistically Significant Results for First-Generation College Students described in link below

Accessible text equivalent of data tables

Note: Asterisks indicate statistically significant findings. One asterisk (*) indicates less than a 5% chance of error due to sampling error, two asterisks (**) indicate less than 1% chance of error, and three asterisks (***) indicate less than .1% chance of error.

The University of Georgia Study

In July 2018, a large-scale study was published that examined the impact of OER on student success metrics. The study evaluated the academic performance of 22,137 students in nine different courses at the University of Georgia. Each of these courses was taught by a professor who switched from a commercial textbook costing $100 or more to a free, open textbook from OpenStax.

The results demonstrate that OER adoption does much more than save students money. OER also impact student learning, completion, and attainment gaps by improving end-of-course grades and decreasing DFW (D, F, and Withdrawal letter grades) rates. More specifically:

  • OER improve end-of-course grades for all students
  • OER improve course grades at greater rates for non-white and Pell-eligible students, part-time students, and populations historically underserved by higher education
  • OER decrease DFW rates for all students
  • OER decrease DFW rates at greater rates for non-white and Pell-eligible students, part-time students, and populations historically underserved by higher education

Main finding from University of Gerogia Study, described in link below

Accessible text equivalent of data table

Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education for SPARC, noted that “the most important finding of this study is that it directly links OER with equity. The greatest gains from using OER accrued to the students most likely to be underserved for traditional models" (McKenzie, 2018).


OER/ZTC, Equity, and Beyond: While it is easy to see the link between no-cost resources and achieving your equity goals, how do you take this concept to the next level and connect it to other college initiatives and make this understanding a part of your college culture? What are the fundamental connections between your local equity, Open Educational Resources (OER), guided pathways, and Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) efforts? This webinar will introduce you to resources for training yourself – and your colleagues – to understand and appreciate these important intersections."

College Costs in the Last 10 Years 


consumer price index for tuition and school related items from 1/06-7/16.  Shows growth of textbooks costs from 100-$190.

SAO Survey