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Rutgers Incentivizes Open, Affordable Textbooks

Rutgers University in New Jersey has launched its Open and Affordable Textbook (OAT) Project, which offers grants to faculty or department groups that switch to free, low-cost or open alternatives to traditional textbooks.

According to the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) — an independent student organization that campaigned for the OAT Project — students at Rutgers pay an average of $1,500 per year for textbooks, while students across the United States pay an average of $1,300 per year. The group also found that seven out of 10 students "skip required textbooks due to cost and nearly 60 percent wait for financial aid to pay for textbooks."

"We have reached a point where the cost of textbooks is limiting equity and access in education," said Lily Todorinova, coordinator of the OAT Project and undergraduate experience librarian at Rutgers.

The OAT Project will award $1,000 to 12 groups from Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, Rutgers University-Camden, Rutgers University-Newark and Rutgers University-New Brunswick to switch to open and affordable textbook alternatives. According to a news release from the university, open educational resources "are peer-reviewed, but are published under copyright licenses that allow students to read and download them for free or to print them at a significant cost savings."

One course at Rutgers — Aggregate Economics — switched to free and low-cost alternatives before the OAT Project. The traditional textbook for the course costs $89.99 in print or $69.99 as an e-book. However, through the Springer e-books collection of Rutgers University Libraries, students can download a free PDF of the textbook or they can purchase a paperback copy for $24.99. The OAT Project aims to help other courses make similar changes.

The OAT Project is funded by the university's Office of Information Technology and administered by Rutgers University Libraries.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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