I am a graduate of Baylor University in 2001 and 2003. I used to dread the start of each semester, venturing to the bookstore to spend anywhere from $300 to $700 on textbooks.
As an alumnus of Baylor now paying back over $70,000 in student loans, I struggled financially during my college years. I would often survive on packs of H-E-B-brand hot dogs and lunch meat. I now teach for a Hispanic Serving Institution where the average family income is less than $40,000.
My students often choose to pay their electricity bill or buy groceries rather than purchase a textbook. This led me to consider the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) for my classes. Now, all of my Introduction to Speech Communication and Public Speaking courses use OER instead of requiring students to spend $170 on a textbook.
In fact, I’m not the only one. At Palo Alto College, 47 faculty use OERs in 163 sections for a total savings to students of over $500,000. When I ask my students what they did with the savings, they tell me they bought groceries or were able to pay a bill. At the time of my enrollment at Baylor, the technology may not have been in place to use OERs, but it is certainly now. The institution that our football team plays this week has been an innovator in OERs developing instructional materials for students to use to fulfill their general educational courses.
I hope more faculty and institutions invest in innovative approaches to reduce the costs of education so that learning can be more accessible to those at the margins of society. At Baylor, we can be more.
-Joseph Coppela, 2003 Alumnus