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

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 and report language for the continued implementation of the Open Textbooks Pilot in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations bill – a $2 million increase from FY19.  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 FY19 funding follows $5 million the Senators secured for the Pilot in FY17 and FY18.

“With this additional funding, more colleges and universities across the country will be able to participate in the pilot—bringing critical cost-savings to more students.  I encourage all interested institutions in Illinois and across the country to apply. It’s imperative, to ensure the maximum savings for students, that the Department of Education allocate this funding as Congress has directed it in the bill,” Durbin said.

“College is expensive enough – textbooks shouldn’t drive the price even higher,” said King. “The expansion of the Open Textbooks Pilot is an important opportunity to help more students affordably access the tools they need to succeed.”

“I hear from college students in Minnesota who struggle with the high cost of textbooks, and sometimes forgo materials needed for class. It’s my hope that with this additional funding more students and institutions will be able to benefit from open textbooks, in Minnesota and across the country,” said Smith. “These efforts will help save students money and ultimately help bring down the amount of student loan debt that young people graduate with.”

“Steep textbook costs should never hold an Arizonan back from an education. We’re increasing 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 2017 2018 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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