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Textbook Options save Grizzlies cash

The Composition I and II Textbooks
Published: Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

Butler faculty help students save more than $1.75 million with new textbook options

Butler Community College students are racking up some major savings when it comes to textbook spending, thanks to ongoing efforts by college officials to make education more affordable.

By using two new textbook options — open educational resources (OER) and negotiated digital subscriptions with two major academic textbook publishers — the college has been able to save its students more than $1.75 million in textbook costs since fall 2018, according to a recent report compiled by Susan Bradley, dean of humanities, social sciences and humanities.  

OER materials refer to a variety of high-quality instructional materials — from peer-reviewed textbooks, lesson plans, activities, curriculum, images, music and more — that are available in what’s known as public domain or through a special licensing that allows them to be shared.  

The use of OER materials in three English classes alone has saved Butler students more than $1,168,000 since fall 2018, Bradley wrote in her report.

Butler’s agreements with McGraw Hill and Cengage to provide digital textbooks and other digital educational materials have saved its students more than $615,000, the report said. With no printing and other related costs driving up the sticker price, digital textbooks are a much cheaper option than printed textbooks for students.

Instead of opting for OER already available, Butler’s English department faculty created the OER textbooks being used in Comp I and II classes and in the Intro to Literature class. The composition classes are required for all degree-bound Butler students, while the literature class is taken by 125 to 200 or so students each semester.

In the case of the literature class, students not only lowered their financial burden, going from spending $190 to $10 with an OER, but also reduced the physical burden of carrying around a 1,700-page textbook, said Mindy Trenary, associate professor of English. Trenary led the team of faculty who created the new literature OER textbook, which is in digital format and optimized for use on mobile devices.

For the Comp I and II classes, each student saw their textbook tab for the course drop from $240 to just $20.

Besides costing students less, the OER materials also allow faculty to customize the material they use to teach.

“Our faculty are very knowledgeable so writing or adapting OER allows them to take ownership of the curriculum materials they use in their courses in a way they can’t with traditional textbooks or other resources,” Bradley said.

“One of the beauties of the OER textbook is that we can update it, add to it or take material out. Sure, it’s not a fancy inlaid bound book but it’s practical and it costs only $10. … For the cost of a couple of coffees, a student can have their literature textbook,” said Trenary.

Trenary and Bradley co-chair the college’s 14-member Textbook Affordability Team, which includes faculty from various disciplines, administrators and librarians. The team was formed in fall 2019 to find high-quality instructional materials at more affordable prices for Butler’s students.  

“There are students who can’t afford to attend college because of the cost of books,” Trenary said.  

Textbooks and supplies can cost more than $1,200 a year, according to most college estimates.

“We’re really leading the way among Kansas community colleges on widening our use of OER,” said Bradley. She is Butler’s representative to a recently formed Kansas Board of Regents committee that is looking at expanding OER use at all Kansas universities and colleges.  

“We owe so much thanks to our faculty who have pushed and lobbied to help reduce the financial burden of education for our students,” Bradley said.