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K-State Today

March 11, 2015

Advocacy group profiles K-State's efforts to save students millions of dollars on textbooks

Submitted by Sarah McGreer Hoyt

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The Kansas State University Open/Alternative Textbook Initiative has received national attention thanks to a new report, "Open Textbooks: The Billion Dollar Solution," released by The Student Public Interest Research Groups.

The report concludes that if every undergrad in the United States were assigned just one open-source textbook each year, students would save a billion dollars annually.

K-State's Open/Alternative Textbook Initiative was among five programs at U.S. colleges that the report profiled. All aim to reduce the burden of textbook costs for their students by investing in open source alternatives.

The initiative at K-State was initially enabled by Student Centered Tuition Enhancement funds and support from K-State Libraries. Those two sources contributed $96,250 in stipends during the program's first two years so faculty could develop or adapt open textbooks.

From the beginning of the spring 2013 semester through the end of spring 2014, 20 courses were converted to open or alternative textbooks. The return on savings was 10 fold, as more than 8,000 K-State students saved a total of $1,111,527. That's an average of $138 per student.

In fall 2014, the offices of the provost and president committed funds to the initiative for an additional two years.

"K-State's Open/Alternative Textbook Initiative has made a dramatic impact since its inception, and we look forward to lowering expenses for many more students in the coming years," said April Mason, provost and senior vice president.

The release of the report follows a call for proposals as the Open/Alternative Textbook Initiative enters its third year. Proposals must be received by 5 p.m. Friday, March 27.

Multiple awards of $2,000-$5,000 will be given to K-State faculty who develop open or alternative textbooks for their courses. Proposals are accepted from both individual faculty and from teams that teach several sections of the same course.

Proposal requirements, submission and selection criteria and examples of open texts already in use are available at the K-State Libraries website. Awards will be announced by approximately April 24 for the 2015-2016 academic year. 

Questions about the initiative may be directed to Brian Lindshield, associate professor, human nutrition; Andy Bennett, department head and professor of mathematics; or Beth Turtle, associate professor, K-State Libraries.