Franken deserves praise for support of open textbooks

Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Al Franken, D-Minn., introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act two weeks ago. If passed, the bill would expand the use of open educational resources and provide a framework for sharing educational materials and best practices. This legislation will save students money by increasing the use of low-cost, high-quality materials in college classrooms. Franken deserves the praise of both students and educators for his work toward this goal. We hope Congress acts swiftly to pass this legislation.

With the cost of higher education rising at unsustainable rates, students are facing unprecedented challenges in paying for college. Often seen as a peripheral cost in the past, the cost of textbooks is now front and center in the college affordability conversation.

The cost of textbooks has become a barrier to academic success. College textbook prices skyrocketed by 82 percent between 2002 and 2012. The average four-year, public college student spends almost $1,200 each year on course materials. While rentals and digital textbooks have given students more options, they have not created significant savings or improved educational outcomes.

The best way to deliver long-term textbook savings is through Open Educational Resources. Open educational resources are free, online academic materials with a license permitting everyone to use, adapt and share them. We see this bill as addressing income inequality, improving individual educational outcomes by increasing equal access to educational resources, and opening the door to public access to public research.

As student leaders, we could not be more pleased with Franken’s leadership on this issue.