February 13, 2023

Cochise College receives grant to reduce cost of books for students

Grant will allow 25 courses to switch to low-or-no cost reading materials.

Cochise College Sign
Summer Hom, AZPM

Cochise College has been awarded a $165,534.84 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund the use of Open Educational Resources for 25 of its courses.

Dr. Wendy Ashby, Cochise College’s Instructional Designer, said the goal of applying for the grant to use OERs is to lower, or eliminate the cost of textbooks and other classroom materials for students.

OERs are materials that cost less because they are created either in the public domain or are published under an open license, which enable no to low cost access according to the Harvard Library.

Ashby said that OERs can include textbooks and other multimedia, and that she hopes this grant will close the financial gap between students and their textbooks.

“Textbooks just have become out of reach for many students, especially, again, in the rural community colleges because they tend to have more financial difficulties than some other demographic groups do,” said Ashby. “You can do ancillary materials, you could do lab simulations. You can do instructor handbooks, videos, any kind of multimedia projects.”

“If we had an OER for every course in the Arizona General Education curriculum, and if every enrolled student at a rural community college in Arizona were to use an OER for every one of those courses, the projected savings could be up close to about $2 million dollars,” she continued.

Cochise College Student Government Association President Christian Lewis says that some of his textbooks have cost between $300-$400 dollars. He said that he believes that OERs will not only help students’ wallets but their mental health too.

“Because you already have to worry about actually learning the material too on top of already, like, having to burden the financial weight of the textbooks themselves,” said Lewis, who is majoring in Computer Science. “Now, you don’t have to worry about that. So, you can spend more time learning the material, which is why they went to college in the first place.”

Ashby said the college has 10 subject areas that it hopes to start integrating OERs into starting in September of this year, including: Allied Health, Anthropology, Art, Biology, Early Childhood Education, English, Math, Music, Psychology and Spanish.

She added that out of the 27 courses the college submitted for approval for grant funding, 25 were approved. Ashby said that the grant funds are a one-time allocation that will finance OERs for the college for two years.

Another goal of the program is to train and retain young professionals in the rural communities.

“We have high levels of attrition and this helps students with sort of persistence and transfer to four-year programs and so it just made sense to us that we should all together be working in the state of Arizona to provide resources for all of the students who are not part of the urban community college systems,” Ashby said.

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