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Libraries to head open textbook grant program

February 5, 2016
Student speakers

Representatives of the NJPIRG Rutgers–New Brunswick student chapter spoke about the rising cost of textbooks on Wednesday at Alexander Library.

The Libraries have been tapped by President Robert Barchi to design and administer a pilot grant program to foster the use of open textbooks at Rutgers.  The program will offer $12,000 in competitive grants to university faculty members to help transition their course materials to an open textbook platform.

Open textbooks such as those offered by the Open Textbook Library are peer-reviewed like conventional textbooks but published under open copyright licenses that allow them to be read, downloaded, and printed for free. In addition to cutting costs for students, these textbooks often offer teaching faculty the flexibility to alter or repurpose the material to suit their particular needs.

“My administration recognizes the financial impact that rising college textbook costs have on Rutgers students, and is supportive of efforts to increase the number of Rutgers faculty members assigning open textbooks in their courses,” said President Barchi in his response to a report and resolution by the Rutgers University Senate’s Student Affairs Committee.

On Wednesday, Student PIRGS issued a report entitled Covering the Cost that urged policymakers at institutions of higher education to support alternatives to traditional methods of publishing.

The report found that more than 25% of students in New Jersey use financial aid to pay for textbooks at an average of over $300 per student per semester.  These expenses across the country amount to more than $3 billion each year.

Jenelle Melecio, a representative of the NJPIRG Rutgers–New Brunswick student chapter, noted that an increasing number of students are forced to decide whether to pay for their books with financial aid money or to forego the books completely and jeopardize their ability to succeed in class.  “For many students, high textbook prices mean a lose-lose choice,” she said.

Piloting an open textbook program at Rutgers represents a small step toward eliminating such a choice.

“Enhancing support for Rutgers University's undergraduate population is a major priority for the Libraries and we are pleased to be administering this pilot grant program on behalf of the university,” said Krisellen Maloney, vice president for information sciences and university librarian. “In implementing this program, we are joining a growing network of institutions across the country with open textbook initiatives that ensure that students spend more time learning and less time worrying about how they will be able to afford the materials they need for their studies.”