Open Menu Close Menu

Open Educational Resources

OER in Oregon Shrinks Cost of Course Materials by Three-Quarters

The average cost of course materials for an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree and Associate of Science Oregon Transfer-Business degree, as well as the lowest cost pathway for the AAOT.

The average cost of course materials for an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree and Associate of Science Oregon Transfer-Business degree, as well as the lowest cost pathway for the AAOT. Source: "Four years and falling: Impact of statewide funding for textbook affordability" from OpenOregon.

A recently released study showed that an investment by the state of Oregon in promoting textbook affordability has led to a dramatic drop in the cost of course materials for transfer degrees. The research, undertaken by Open Oregon, which tracks the use of open educational resources in the state, reported that the 112,462 students in the 10 highest-enrollment classes saved an estimated $1.1 million in 2019 compared to 2017, due to greater use of no-cost and low-cost class content.

The project estimated the cost of course materials for two transfer degree programs: the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer (AAOT) and Associate of Science Oregon Transfer-Business (ASOT-BUS). While each has required courses, both also give leeway to each student in how to meet the requirements for majors and electives. Since there were multiple options for meeting requirements, the course with the highest enrollment at each of the 17 participating colleges was used for the sake of the research.

The researchers visited each school's bookstore website and looked up the cost of the required materials for each of the courses for the current term. In cases where multiple sections were available, they selected the first one on the list. The idea, the report noted, was to introduce a note of randomness to emulate the situation of a student who couldn't pick his or her courses based strictly on how much the materials would cost "because of competing priorities such as work schedules or childcare." For each course, the highest and lowest cost options were also recorded. Where the same book could be used for more than one course, its cost was counted just once. That process was repeated for 2015, 2017 and 2019.

2015 was the year that the state passed a law requiring all public institutions to flag no-cost and low-cost courses in the schedule. By fall 2017, 13 of the 17 participating schools had set that up, and all but one had it in place by fall 2019. As the report explained, that made it possible for a student with no constraints on schedule to pick the degree pathway that offered the lowest possible course material costs.

In 2019, the statewide average for the AAOT pathway turned out to be $1,492. That was an 18 percent reduction from 2017 and a 30 percent drop from 2015. For the ASOT-BUS pathway, the average cost for course materials was $1,575 — 20 percent less than in 2017 and 32 percent lower than in 2015.

But with maximum flexibility in selecting the courses and sections based on course material cost alone, the lowest cost for an AAOT degree pathway was $381 — a 75 percent savings compared to the average cost when always choosing the first section.

As the researchers pointed out, that lowest-cost pathway was "a reminder of the impact of faculty choices and the importance of prominently designating courses in the class schedule to make savings information readily available to students. It has the potential to become a curriculum that can be marketed widely to students."

The complete report is freely available on the Open Oregon Educational Resources website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

comments powered by Disqus

Campus Technology News

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.