Durbin, King, Smith, Sinema Secure $7 Million for Competitive Grants Supporting Open Textbooks in Year-End Funding Bill

Senators have secured $24 million over the life of the pilot for open textbooks

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Angus King (I-ME), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) today applauded the inclusion of $7 million in additional funding for the continued implementation of the Open Textbooks Pilot in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations bill. The Open Textbooks Pilot, based on the Senators’ Affordable College Textbook Act, is a competitive grant program to support the creation and expand the use of open college textbooks—textbooks that are available under an open license, allowing professors, students, researchers, and others to freely access the materials.  The FY21 funding follows $17 million the Senators secured for the Pilot over the 3 previous years.

“With this funding, more colleges and universities across the country will be able to bring cost-savings to more students.  I encourage all interested institutions in Illinois and across the country to apply for this Open Textbooks Pilot.  I look forward to working with the incoming Biden Administration to ensure the continuity and strength behind this program,” 

Durbin said. 

“Textbooks are the fundamental tool for students seeking to succeed in college – but they are also yet another added expense for those struggling with tuition costs,” said King. “In recent years, this pilot program has helped make higher education more affordable and accessible to students of all financial backgrounds. I’m thrilled that this year’s funding will enable this good work in Fiscal Year 2021, allowing students to save thousands of dollars over the course of their education.” 

“We’ve heard from students directly about how pricey textbooks can be. And sometimes, the cost is so high that students just try to make it work without purchasing the material,” said Smith. “We know that open textbooks—free and open education resources—can make a huge difference. Minnesota students have benefitted from open textbooks, and I’m pleased that securing these resources means we’ll be able to provide help to more students across the country.”

“Steep textbook costs should never hold an Arizonan back from an education. Our bill increases access to course materials so all students can receive a quality education,” said Sinema. 

Textbook costs are one of the most overlooked costs of going to college, but they can be substantial and can be a barrier to attaining a college education. According to The College Board, the average student budget for college books and supplies during the 2020-2021 academic year was $1,240 at four-year public institutions.  According to a survey by U.S. PIRG, 65 percent of students decided not to buy a textbook because of the cost and 94 percent of those students worried it would negatively affect their grade.

The Affordable College Textbook Act also expands and updates provisions from Durbin’s College Textbook Affordability Act contained in the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act.The provisions aimed to make more information available to students looking to manage college textbook costs. The 2008 law required textbook publishers to disclose to faculty the cost of a textbook to their students, required schools to publish textbook price information in course catalogues when practicable, and required publishers to offer unbundled supplemental materials so students had choices. The provisions took effect on July 1, 2010.

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