Evaluating the Impact of Free Textbooks on Degree Attainment

on July 26, 2016

With all of the emphasis on the potential benefits of free public college tuition, the impact of textbook costs on college completion has been overlooked.

At community colleges, the cost of textbooks can represent about 13 percent of the net price for Federal Pell Grant recipients. Community college students spend about $1,300 a year on textbooks. That’s 1/3 of the annual cost of tuition. That’s enough to have an impact on college dropout rates, as noted by Public Agenda in a 2013 report.

To address this problem, the Open Educational Resources (OER) Degree Initiative is helping dozens of community colleges in 13 states redesign degree programs to replace textbooks with free alternatives. Great Lakes is funding an evaluation of the impact of the initiative on college completion rates.

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