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Combating the Rising Cost of Education

Contributed by Laurie Borchard

It’s no secret that student debt is continuing to rise, and unfortunately the cost of textbooks has also increased significantly in the past 10 years. According to a recent survey of college students in the U.S., 65% of students have decided against purchasing a textbook because of the price tag. In addition, over 50% of students admitted that the cost of a textbook impacts how many and which classes they enroll in, and that they worry that not purchasing the required texts will affect their grades. (Student PIRG, 2014). Fortunately for students, Open Educational Resources (OERs) have been trending for the past few years and there is a push in higher education to lower the cost of course materials. OERs are openly licensed educational resources that are mostly available online and are freely accessible to anyone.

PowerPoint illustration of the ALS initiative's combination of Affordability, Choice of Quality Content, and Accessibility

The mission of the California State University (CSU) system has always been to provide affordable, high-quality education. The CSU’s Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) initiative enables campuses to provide more affordable educational content for students. AL$ helps faculty find quality low or no cost content, provides funding for campus initiatives, and shares practices and resources for using content in courses. These coordinated campus efforts include collaboration between campus organizations and departments, including: the library, bookstore, academic/faculty technology, and disability services. "The AL$ initiative is critically important because CSUN is constantly seeking ways to reduce textbook costs for students, while maintaining and even improving the quality of teaching materials through customization and faculty authorship. The initiative is a huge step in that direction," says Deone Zell, Associate Vice President for Academic Technology and AL$ team member. For more information check out the AL$ website.

Each year the Chancellor’s Office awards different CSU campuses money to start or maintain AL$ initiatives. CSUN was recently awarded money and a coordinated group has been established. Over the course of the next year, this group will focus on developing a marketing and educational campaign about OERs, promote the use of library and bookstore resources, support faculty in re-designing their courses or creating their own texts, in addition to rewarding faculty who have saved students the most money. The members of the AL$ team here at CSUN are:

  • Laurie Borchard (coordinator) – Digital Learning Initiatives Librarian, Oviatt Library
  • Lauren Magnuson – Emerging Technologies Librarian, Oviatt Library
  • Deone Zell – Associate Vice President, Academic Technology
  • Greg Mena – Instructional Designer, Academic Technology
  • Amy Berger – Director, Matador Bookstore
  • Robert Munck – Textbook Manager, Matador Bookstore
  • Patrice Wheeler – Disability Resources and Educational Services

Although this is the first coordinated AL$ group here at CSUN, our campus has already been supporting faculty by helping them to choose more affordable course materials. Academic Technology and the Faculty Technology Center have already been providing support for faculty who want to create their own e-texts and e-learning resources.

The Matador Bookstore has always worked closely with faculty in choosing textbooks and in the last few years has provided more affordable electronic course resources. They will soon release a new search tool for students and faculty that will connect users with more resources beyond the traditional print textbooks, including OERs.

The Oviatt Library has always had a commitment to providing users with access to free quality resources. Unfortunately, it is not feasible for the library to buy every single textbook for every single course offered here at CSUN. However, our Course Reserves department has been at the forefront of providing students with free course materials for a long time. In the last couple of years the Oviatt has received Campus Quality Fee (CQF) funding to help purchase reserve textbooks for classes with high textbook costs and large enrollment. On top of providing course reserves, the Oviatt has focused on purchasing more electronic resources including e-books and streaming video.

AL$ at CSUN is an opportunity to take all that we already do and elevate it in a concerted effort to make a more positive and broader impact on students. Not only does AL$ reduce the cost of course resources for students, it also promotes more flexible learning environments for students with the selection of more innovative online learning materials. For more information about AL$ at CSUN check out our Affordable Learning Solutions page on the Library website.

Finally, congratulations, you found the Freud! Small Image of the Freudian Sip's Freud The password for Summer 2015 is Affordability. The first 50 readers who find the Freud and bring the password to the Freudian Sip in the Oviatt Library will receive a free cookie with their purchase.

Image credit: Gerry Hanley, CSU Affordable Learning Solutions: Reducing the Cost of a CSU Education