PSU Reduce Student Costs Task Force lowering textbook costs for students

The Portland State Reduce Student Cost Task Force recently published a report which outlines recommendations and strategies on how to make textbooks and class materials more affordable for students.

The task force was created in Fall 2014 and continued its work through Winter 2015. Members were appointed by Bob Liebman, presiding officer of PSU Faculty Senate; Eric Noll, president of Associated Students of PSU; and Sona K. Andrews, provost and vice president for Office of Academic Affairs. Led by Marilyn Moody, dean of Library, the task force consists of both faculty and students.

According to the report, the average undergraduate student spends more than a thousand dollars on textbooks and supplies. The report focuses on five themes: “Expand on the initial investment of the Task Force,” “pursue collaboration among all stakeholders,” “develop and incentivize use of open education resources,” “investigate other cost-reduction initiatives,” and “address challenges of copyright and intellectual property,” to alleviate this problem for students.

“The task force reviewed and investigated initiatives and strategies to reduce the costs of textbooks and course materials for PSU students,” Moody said. “We looked at a broad range of possibilities and reviewed models and initiatives successfully used by other colleges and universities. We then developed a set of 14 recommendations and strategies for their implementation.”

The report provides a list of other university systems that are used as models in developing PSU’s successful system. Examples include the California State University system providing students with free or low cost digital textbooks, and University of Massachusetts’ library that functions exclusively for textbooks.

Many of the recommendations revolve around the PSU library. One of the most effective strategies the task force advocates is to use open textbooks and other open resources at the library, such as the pilot PDX Open reThink project.

“More than 200 students enrolled in these pilot courses and saved from $100 to $141 in one term for a total savings of $23,805.6” the report states.

“We have already begun initiatives on campus to create and use more open textbooks and course materials,” Moody said. “The recommendation to ASPSU to facilitate student-to-student textbook reuse through strategies such as organizing textbook swaps could also happen quickly. Policies promoting the early adoption of textbooks and other course materials so that students can have time to find the cheapest purchase price can also have an immediate impact.”

When asked if the task force has faced any challenges, Moody said, “The task force had to review a huge amount of information and think about many different possibilities. It was a challenge to narrow our recommendations down to those with the greatest potential impact for PSU students.”

Although some implementations may take longer than others, students will begin seeing results in the next academic year.