PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Responding to concerns college students have raised about the rising cost of textbooks being a barrier to a degree, Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced a new challenge today, led by the Governor's Office of Innovation, to save college students $5 million over the next five years by transitioning to openly licensed textbooks. The Governor made the announcement at Rhode Island College (RIC) which launched a pilot program for this school year that has already saved students $100,000 by replacing the traditional textbook for all sections of Biology 108 with an openly licensed text.
In addition to RIC, six other public and private colleges and universities have already pledged support for this initiative, including the University of Rhode Island, Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), Bryant University, Brown University, Roger Williams University and the New England Institute of Technology. The Governor and RIC President Frank Sánchez challenged all the remaining colleges and universities in the state to join.
"Last week, I announced a goal to ensure that 70 percent of Rhode Islanders have at least an associate's degree by 2025," said Raimondo. "The day we made that announcement, I met with students at CCRI and RIC who told me the cost of books can be a barrier to earning a degree. The Rhode Island Open Textbook Initiative will help train librarians, faculty and students to identify and incorporate openly licensed textbooks and put $5 million back in students' pockets."
College textbook prices have nearly doubled over the last decade and traditional textbooks carry restrictive licenses that prevent faculty from taking innovative approaches to make material available to students or improve the material. Openly licensed textbooks can be freely distributed online and updated by faculty. Additionally, greater access to digital, openly licensed textbooks can make course materials more accessible for students who are hearing- or vision-impaired and students who require translation supports.
"Rhode Island College is proud to be a leader in the Rhode Island Open Textbook Initiative and we are committed to reducing the cost of getting a college degree," said President Sánchez. "We are excited to share our experiences and assist institutions across the state transition to open-licensed resources."
The Governor's Office of Innovation will lead the Open Textbook Initiative through a partnership with RIC's Adams Library. Raimondo and Chief Innovation Officer Richard Culatta announced several other partnerships which will support the initiative:
• The Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner and the Office of Innovation will provide micro-grants to allow faculty to review and transition their syllabuses to openly licensed textbooks;
• The Open Textbook Network, a national organization which maintains a growing catalog of free, peer-reviewed and openly licensed textbooks, will provide training and implementation support for colleges and universities participation in the Initiative;
• The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), a global coalition committed to enable the open sharing of educational materials, will provide training to academic librarians to help faculty identify openly licensed educational resources; and
• The Right to Research Coalition, a diverse collection of local, national and international student organizations working to promote an open scholarly publishing system, will work with student government leaders to raise student awareness about openly licensed textbooks.
Last week, Raimondo announced an ambitious goal to ensure 70 percent of working-aged Rhode Islanders hold at least an associate's degree by 2025. In the coming years, seven out of 10 jobs created in Rhode Island will require more than a high school diploma. Today's announcement supports that bold goal and builds on a foundation of other investments and innovative public policies designed to make college more accessible and affordable, including:
• New funding this year so every 11th and 12th grader can take the PSAT and SAT for free;
• $2.5 million in funding to establish the Prepare RI program which allows high school students to take college courses for free, lowering the cost of college for students and families;
• $2 million over two years to establish three P-TECH programs, including a six-year program in Westerly that gives students a high school diploma an associate's degree in advanced manufacturing;
• $20 million over two years to establish the RI Promise Scholarship program; and
• The Wavemaker Fellowship program that offers tax credits to defray student loans to college graduates who live and work in Rhode Island.