With Student Textbook Savings Nearing $50 Million, SUNY Chancellor to Double Courses Offered with Free, Digital Learning Materials

February 4, 2020

14,000+ Course Sections Have Saved Students More than $47 Million Since 2017

Chancellor Johnson: "Thanks to a significant investment from Governor Cuomo, what began as a grassroots effort is reshaping the formula for teaching and learning, while putting critical dollars back in our students' pockets." 

Albany – Committed to creating universal access to higher education in New York State, State University of New York Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson today announced that SUNY will double the percentage of general education courses offered with Open Educational Resources (OER). Replacing and/or supplementing textbooks in an increasing number of courses, OER are freely accessible, low-cost, predominantly digital learning materials that have saved SUNY students more than $47 million on textbooks since 2017.

"A core component to college affordability is reducing add-on costs and barriers that can prohibit many students from succeeding in college, and ultimately, deny them their opportunity for upward social mobility," said SUNY Chancellor Johnson. "Thanks to a significant investment from Governor Cuomo, what began as a grassroots effort is reshaping the formula for teaching and learning, while putting critical dollars back in our students’ pockets."

"Aside from these crucial cost-savings, we are also beginning to see the positive impacts of OER on student performance," said SUNY Provost Tod Laursen. "By supporting faculty to adopt and customize learning content to fit students' needs, OER are leading to a more individualized learning experience, and generating better outcomes for our students."

With a total of $12 million invested by the state over the course of three years, more than 435,000 SUNY students have enrolled in 14,581 OER course sections. To project textbook savings between 2017 and 2019, instructors teaching OER courses self-reported learning material costs per student for those same courses pre-OER. For OER courses where instructors could not pinpoint the previous cost, a $100 cost was assigned per student. That cost is the national average for materials per course that is commonly used to calculate textbook savings. The projections are based on the assumption that all students will purchase required course materials, and through OER, all students have access to those materials. SUNY currently offers approximately 18 percent of general education courses with OER. With continued funding from the state, and by working aggressively to build system-wide awareness about the cost, teaching, and learning benefits of OER, SUNY will offer approximately 36 percent of general education courses with OER and other affordable materials by the end of 2023.

OER include fully curated courses (featured at oer.suny.edu), newly developed texts, and course-appropriate chapters from established textbooks, lesson plans, syllabi, laboratory manuals, lecture notes, homework systems, and graphics. They can be accessed through tablets, smartphones, laptops, and desktops. OER course sections also enable educators to tailor course materials to their syllabus and students. In many cases, faculty even enlist the help of students in the learning content customization process.

OER represent one component of a broad, holistic approach to reducing college costs and building transparency and accountability between the university system and the people who have entrusted their futures with it. The Excelsior Scholarship offers free tuition to any student with a household income of $125,000 or less. In response to growing nationwide rates of student food insecurity, SUNY opened stigma-free food pantries on or in partnership with all 64 campuses. SUNY Smart Track is improving financial literacy among prospective and current students, while SUNY gradwages is giving them a realistic expectation of what they can expect to earn with varying degrees. Re-Enroll to Complete is reducing the chances that student borrowers default on loans, while the Student Emergency Fund helps pay for urgent expenses triggered by unforeseen events that threaten students’ ability to stay in college.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit suny.edu.

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